The Plaintiff claims that the Defendant, MICHAEL DOE, owed a duty to the Plaintiff, which duty was breached by the said Defendant, the particulars of which breach are as follows:
(a) driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway;
(b) failing to keep a proper lookout or any lookout at all; . . .

I thought it should be corrected as

The Plaintiff claims that the Defendant, MICHAEL DOE, owed a duty to the Plaintiff which was breached by the said Defendant, the particulars of which are as follows: . . .

There are 2 relative pronouns (which) in the original sentence.

The antecedent of the first which: "a duty"
The antecedent of the second which: the former clauses—the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty which was breached by him

  1. Shouldn’t the first which have a comma before itself because the clause is a restrictive clause modifying “a duty”? Or is it ok to have a comma because the antecedent (“a duty”) is away from the relative pronoun (“which”)?

  2. Someone told me that "duty" in "which duty was breached" is just added for emphasis. Is it grammatically accepted to add a word of the antecedent after the relative pronoun for emphasis?

  3. Regarding Question 2, is “breach” also added for emphasis or to prevent the reader from misreading it? For example, without “breach” a reader can think the antecedent of the second which is the whole former clauses—the plaintiff claims that the defendant owed a duty which was breached by him. There is no word “breach” as a noun (except the only one in the relative pronoun clause), but only the past participle “breached”. If it’s ok to add a word after the relative pronoun for helping the reader or for emphasis, does the word to be added not have to be exactly the same word that has already been said?

1 Answer 1


I can only help with parts of your question but here goes:

  1. In spite of what grammar books say, my experience is that these rules about commas in relative clauses tend to break down in longer sentences with multiple clauses and commas. But in any case, it is the NON-restrictive (or NON-defining) clause which absolutely requires the comma. Here however we have a sentence in a legal style, and the function of the relative clauses seems to me more to simply to continue the sentence slowly adding more information, much in the same way as "and", but in a more appropriate style for a legal text.

  2. Yes, "duty" added for emphasis if you like, but also to avoid confusion with "which breach" in the subsequent relative clause, and also because using "which + (repetition of antecedent)" contributes to the formal register of the text, as in many of these examples with "problem" (but beware: NOT all of them!) https://www.google.com/search?q=%22which%20problem%20was%22&tbm=bks&tbs=cdr:1,cd_min:1990,cd_max:2000&lr=lang_en

This is typical of legalese, to make it perfectly clear which noun the "which" actually refers to.

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