The following is from Michael Swan's Practical English Usage:

Relative clauses can also be combined with if-clauses in sentences like the following.

I am enclosing an application form, which I should be grateful if you would sign and return.

Then, can relative clauses also be combined with other kinds of adverbial clauses, for example since-clauses in sentences like the following?

It seems something is wrong with this PC, which barely a month has passed since I bought.

  • As for the first example, I wouldn't judge that as a well-formed sentence, from whom?? – Arm the good guys in America Oct 29 '17 at 14:57
  • 1
    Is there a reason to think it is not acceptable? Or just the fact Swans doesn't mention them? Sounds totally fine to my ear – Unrelated Nov 1 '17 at 22:21
  • 2
    @Unrelated you find the OP's last sentence totally fine? It's clearly missing the complement (it). – Mari-Lou A Nov 2 '17 at 5:54
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA Isn't 'which' the complement? Surely you don't think 'which I should be grateful if you would sign and return it' sounds right – Unrelated Nov 2 '17 at 16:21
  • 3
    @Mari-LouA Phew. Thank goodness for you! There's a real issue here. :-) [Complements and Adjuncts guys, if you want to write a post!!] – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 3 '17 at 0:19

It seems something is wrong with this PC, which barely a month has passed since I bought.

This sentence doesn't work, because it is not obvious what which is referring to (although logically it must refer to the PC). Rather, rewrite it without the phrase about time passing.

  1. It seems something is wrong with this PC, which I bought barely a month ago.
  2. It seems something is wrong with this PC, which I have hardly used since I bought it a month ago.
  3. It seems something is wrong with this PC, which I would like to return, since I only bought it a month ago.


Note that there is a difference between since in your sentence, and since in the respect you would like to use it. If you can replace since with as or because, then it fits the pattern you are asking about. If you cannot, then it relates to a time period, which is something different altogether.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    My question is "Can relative clauses be combined with adverbial clauses other than if-clauses?". If the sentence doesn't work, what difference from the example sentence in Swan's book with if-clause causes the problem? – Aki Nov 1 '17 at 12:33
  • The problem is that your sentence doesn't have a since-clause. It uses the word "since" in terms of a time period, but it is not the beginning of a clause. Therefore, your example doesn't fit the pattern in Swan's book. And, as far as I am aware, so long as you have a proper clause, you should be able to use Swan's idea with clauses starting with if, because, since, although, ... – Peter Abolins Nov 1 '17 at 12:40
  • 1
    It is used as a conjunction even though the since-clause lacks the object of the verb "bought" (which is "this PC" of course) just like if-clause in Swan's example lacks the object of "sign and return". – Aki Nov 1 '17 at 13:16
  • 1
    I agree with Aki that since introduces a clause here. Cf. Barely a month has passed since I bought this PC. This works, because since can also introduce subordinate clauses in its temporal sense. In the sentence I have lived here since 2014, it is indeed a preposition (without subordinate clause). I do agree with Peter, though, that there is something different about the since sentence that makes it less felicitous. Is it indeed the word since, or is that a red herring? – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Nov 4 '17 at 23:34
  • 1
    @PeterAbolins: Mm but I don't think that proves it, the fact that it's broken if you remove since I have bought, because which is part of the clause that you remove: it's a highly complicated construction where two subordinate clauses are not so much nested as intertwined; you can't remove one without harming the other, but the exact rules are not entirely clear here. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Nov 6 '17 at 12:09

I believe the following sentences demonstrate that one can indeed combine relative clauses with adverbial clauses, using other than if-clauses:

  1. Jeff skated slowly, that he should waste time on his journey.
  2. Actions speak loudly, when they speak the truth.
  3. Sally slept soundly, where she had run feverishly all day.
  4. People come here, who love coffee.
  5. Strategies work effectively, which take best advantage of the facts.
  6. Even high level executives can get pushed out, whose motives are found corrupt.
  7. He can advance quickly, whom nature has given good intellect.
| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.