I'm an ESL teacher and one of my adult students and I recently read this article in class. He and I were stumped by the structure of the very last sentence:

Toshimitsu Motegi, minister of economic and fiscal policy, said Friday that the Cabinet Office would need to correct figures on employee compensation, which it publishes along with GDP every three months.

My student understood the gist of the sentence after I pointed out that "which it" refers to "figures on employee compensation", but he still wanted to dig deeper into the grammatical structure of this sentence. I wasn't positive, so I told him I would look into it and get back to him with a breakdown for next time.

We both thought it might something related to relative or essential/non-essential clauses, but looking into examples of those online I'm not so sure.

Any help or leads are appreciated.

  • Yes: “which it publishes along with GDP every three months” is a supplementary (non-defining) relative clause. The relative pronoun “which” (not "which it") has the noun phrase “figures on employee compensation” as antecedent. The relative pronoun functions as object of the verb "publishes" in the relative clause.
    – BillJ
    Jan 16, 2019 at 9:14
  • Yes, Bill is right. But there is also the use of the present tense in that relative clause. It might look as if it breaks the sequence of tense. But, of course, it does not: It is not part of what Mr Motegi said. It is an explanatory aside by the journalist. In direct speech it would not be inside the quotation marks. So you probably would have to write: “.... figures on employee compensation.”. It publishes these ... every three months.”!
    – Tuffy
    Jan 16, 2019 at 10:26
  • Thanks so much for your help! My student will appreciate this explanation during our next class. Jan 17, 2019 at 14:12

1 Answer 1


Which refers to the "figures on employee compensation".

It refers to "the Cabinet Office."

"Which" is a relative conjunction that serves as the beginning of an adjectival clause to describe "figures on employee compensation". It is important to note as @BillJ noted below that "which" serves as the object of the verb "publishes".

"It" serves as the subject of following subordinate clause whose verb is "publishes ..."

  • It would be helpful to also mention that the relative pronoun "which" serves as object of "publishes" in the relative clause.
    – BillJ
    Jan 16, 2019 at 19:41
  • I see that now. "Which it publishes..." also serves as an adjectival phrase of "figures on employee compensation".
    – Karlomanio
    Jan 16, 2019 at 19:50
  • Thank you so much for your help! I understand now and both I and my student are super appreciative. Thanks! Jan 17, 2019 at 14:12

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