Let's say I look up to Alice and Bob. Can I convey this fact about Bob in a comma-delimited clause like this?

This is Bob, up to Alice and whom I look.

or similarly

My couch, on my bed and which I often sleep, is brown.

Of course I'd avoid this awkward phrasing in practice, but I'm curious whether it's considered technically valid.

  • 3
    Neither one makes any sense.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 21:22
  • 6
    No. These violate the Coordinate Structure Constraint. Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 21:24
  • 1
    @JohnLawler Thanks! That's exactly what I was looking for.
    – Karl
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 21:28
  • @JohnLawler How come they violate the Coordinate Structure Constraint? Coordination seems OK by me. Is there a constraint that a relative pronoun may not coordinate with a noun or pronoun? If so, fine, but that's not the constraint mentioned in the web page you linked to.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 7:40
  • 1
    @JohnLawler Let's see if I understand: The relevant examples in the web page about Ross constraints are wh- questions, in which a trace is where something was moved from, and the wh- interrogative is its replacement where it was moved to. By contrast, here, the wh- word is a relative pronoun where a noun was moved from, and that noun is its antecedent. If I'm correct, I got confused because I thought the relative pronoun corresponded to an interrogative. But "This is Bob; I work with Alice and him." is OK, so how can a pronoun be the result of movement?
    – Rosie F
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 7:28

1 Answer 1


Absolutely not. They're not grammatical and don't make sense.

The first one could be rephrased, "This is Bob and Alice, up to whom I look." That's grammatical, but it's painfully convoluted and unnatural. It would never happen in conversation or writing.

Use something like: "This is Bob and Alice. I look up to them." Or if you absolutly have to get that whom in: "This Bob and Alice, whom I look up to."

The second one simply can't be untangled. Your couch is probably not on your bed, right? So which do you sleep on? The couch or the bed? Which one is brown?

Try again!

  • 2
    Well, they are not grammatical but they do make sense. The intended meaning is clear.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 0:58
  • @RegDwigнt Not to me. I applaud Charlie for untangling the meaning of the first one.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 23:49
  • 1
    @Barmar The second one means that the couch is brown and that the speaker often sleeps on his bed and on the couch. Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 1:08
  • I don't see how 'That's grammatical, but it's painfully convoluted and unnatural. It would never happen in conversation or writing.' really works. There comes a time when the grammar has to change to align with actual usage. Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 17:54

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