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Oxford Modern English Grammar (OMEG) by Bas Aarts has these passages on page 52:

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Sentence (40) is apparently taken from an Independent article "How Tuna Conquered the World". Two prior paragraphs along with Sentence (40) are shown here:

Some populations, such as leatherback turtles, are being heavily damaged; pushed to the brink of extinction, even though they are not being hunted. Purse seine boats that drop giant drawstring nets in tuna areas, and "long-liners" which sink lines of up to 80km, hooked with bait, are the biggest by-catch culprits.

Conservationists say pole and line fishing, where boats drops bait into the sea and fishermen claw the tuna into the boat (avoiding other species), are "cleaner" methods.

In a report from Greenpeace last year, and still available online, retailers and canning companies were ranked in order of their tuna-fishing policies. Sainsbury, Co-op and Marks & Spencer came top; Princes and John West – most of whose was from purse seiners – came bottom.

Sentence (40) from OMEG is the same as the last paragraph shown above.

Is this "independent" use of whose grammatical? If so, is it natural English or should tuna be added after whose as follows to make it more natural?

In a report from Greenpeace last year, and still available online, retailers and canning companies were ranked in order of their tuna-fishing policies. Sainsbury, Co-op and Marks & Spencer came top; Princes and John West – most of whose tuna was from purse seiners – came bottom.

  • No, it looks very odd, and, yes, 'most of whose tuna' is much clearer. – Kate Bunting Dec 11 '17 at 9:14
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The usage is uncommon but grammatical in a non-defining relative clause. A simpler text makes this clear:

Sainsbury gets its tuna from the Atlantic; John West, most of whose is from the Pacific, ... .

The problem in the present case is that the relative pronoun whose is far removed from its antecedent tuna. A careful writer would have recognized the potential ambiguity caused by this separation and simply repeated the antecedent:

Sainsbury, Co-op and Marks & Spencer came top; Princes and John West – most of whose tuna was from purse seiners – came bottom.

  • Thanks. The added 'tuna' is treated as singular. Why? And can it ever be treated as plural? – JK2 Dec 12 '17 at 7:34
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    @JK2. Yes, if tuna is conceived as being the 'flesh' of the fish that is eaten, then it is singular. E.g., Tuna is my favourite sandwich filling. If tuna is conceived as the individual fish, then it can be pluralized: The tuna were detected by echolocation and 300 of them were captured in the dragnet. – Shoe Dec 12 '17 at 8:05
  • Thanks. In the context of the Independent article, I would think their tuna would mean what they captured from purse seiners. Then, shouldn't it have been in the plural in the original text? most of whose tuna were from purse seiners And in your example text? Sainsbury gets its tuna from the Atlantic; John West, most of whose are from the Pacific... – JK2 Dec 12 '17 at 8:17
  • @JK2. Good question. In the second paragraph of the full text you cite, the reference is clearly to tuna as individual fish (i.e. plural tuna). In the last paragraph the writer employs the singular concept of tuna as 'flesh'. This is rather careless writing, compounded by the omission of tuna after whose. – Shoe Dec 12 '17 at 8:37

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