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Please explain the main difference between these two sentences:

1) My brother who lives in Christchurch is an electrician. 2) My brother, who lives in Christchurch, is an electrician.

In which case does the author of the sentence have one brother, and in which there can be several?

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, user240918, Rob_Ster, Skooba, Nigel J Jan 25 '18 at 0:54

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  • There is no information in either sentence about any other brother than the one mentioned. – Nigel J Jan 23 '18 at 20:09
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    Answered at Punctuations with relative pronouns. There are almost certainly better candidates for the original duplicate, but there are so many that it is hard optimising. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 23 '18 at 21:35
  • 1) provides a slight hint that you may have another brother, or brothers. 2) doesn't really give any clues as to whether you do or don't have other brother(s). If you wanted to convey, without any doubt, that the chap who lives in Christchurch is not your only brother, you need a stronger sentence, that states as much. Eg. "The one brother of mine who lives in Christchurch, is a policeman". – WS2 Jan 23 '18 at 23:44
  • @EdwinAshworth Your link has an answer that is very informative about the comma indicating a subtle shade of meaning, with or without. Interesting. – Nigel J Jan 25 '18 at 0:54
  • Note that pragmatically, "My brother, who lives in Christchurch, is an electrician." doesn't mean that the speaker has not got other brothers; he could merely be leaving them out of consideration. But without the commas, he is specifying one out of two or more. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 25 '18 at 1:08
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Your brother who lives in Christchurch is an electrician, while some other brother lives elsewhere and may have another occupation.

Your brother, who lives in Christchurch, may be the only brother you have, and this would indeed be the construction were that the case, but your sentence could just as easily be followed by:

And my other brother, who lives in Wellington, is a plumbing contractor.

As far as I know, there is no rule of English grammar that insists on one's thinking of every male sibling when saying something about one in particular.

The restrictive versus non-restrictive rule according to how many siblings one has is also valid, though often not observed, with appositives:

This is my brother, Mike. [you have only one brother, and that's Mike.]

This is my brother Mike and his wife, Sandra. [You have at least one other brother, but Mike isn't a bigamist, so his wife gets a comma.]

  • +1 for a sensible answer, but my mother who was born in England often told me that I used too many commas in my writing. – Global Charm Jan 23 '18 at 22:23

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