"The Turk is chess engine who can interact with user interfaces which support Winboard protocol at the moment"

I feel that which can be used instead of who but I'm not sure. If that's not correct what should I use instead of who?


This is a very unclear sentence, for many reasons, one of which is the use of who.

First, the noun phrase chess engine, as a count predicate noun, needs an indefinite article:

The Turk is a chess engine

and the noun phrase Winboard protocol needs a definite article:

supports the Winboard protocol.

Second, you use a stacked relative clause construction with two Wh- words, which is bad style -- repeating a grammatical word should carry extra information, or there's no point to it and it just makes work for everybody. It would be much better to omit one of the Wh- words (this won't work here because both are subjects and only non-subject relative pronouns can be deleted), or to substitute that for one of them,

a chess engine that can interact with user interfaces which support the Winboard protocol

a chess engine which can interact with user interfaces that support the Winboard protocol

or to reduce one or both of the relatives to a participle:

a chess engine that can interact with user interfaces supporting the Winboard protocol

a chess engine interacting with user interfaces that support the Winboard protocol

a chess engine interacting with user interfaces supporting the Winboard protocol

Finally, the temporal phrase at the moment is sitting at the very end of the sentence, after both relative clauses, and it's not clear what clause it refers to. Does it mean

  • it interacts only with interfaces that currently support Winboard (but not others)
  • it interacts with the current interfaces that support Winboard (but not the old ones)
  • it currently interacts with interfaces that support Winboard (but changes are planned)
  • ... etc?

So, put at the moment close to what it modifies.

Oh, and don't use who. Who is for people, not programs, no matter how good they are.

  • "Who is for people, not programs..." ... What about fake simulacra? – James Waldby - jwpat7 Dec 31 '11 at 17:56
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    That's the Turing test. This is the wrong stack exchange for that. – John Lawler Dec 31 '11 at 19:04
  • Is this correct too? "a chess engine that can interact with user interfaces and supports the Winboard protocol" – Meysam Jan 1 '12 at 10:22
  • Yes, it's correct, but it doesn't necessarily mean the same thing. – John Lawler Jan 1 '12 at 16:06

I find the sentence difficult to understand, perhaps because I am not familiar with the subject. If Turk is simply the name of the chess engine, then the relative pronoun has to be which, not who, but you could also introduce the clause with that. In any case, I think you need the indefinite article, a, before chess engine.


If you use "which", you would imply that there is one or more chess engines like "Turk". But if it is unprecedented, you might use "who" instead of "which". In my opinion, in that sentence, the word "engine" may cause to alter the usage of "who".

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    Nah. The "who/which" distinction doesn't turn on how many others there are like it - it's all about whether "The Turk" can reasonably be anthropomorphised (spoken of as a human being). – FumbleFingers Dec 31 '11 at 19:15
  • I really wanted to emphasize your opinion. Look at my last sentence again... – Ebenin Ami Dec 31 '11 at 19:18
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    As others have said, and as you obviously recognise, the word "engine" seriously discourages us from using "who" here. All I'm saying is it's irrelevant whether "The Turk" is the only engine of its kind, or if there are dozens of engines like it. It's still an "it", so we would normally use "that" or "which" to refer to it. – FumbleFingers Dec 31 '11 at 19:30
  • I want to say that "which" means there is a pool and there are lots of things in that pool. You emphasize a particular thing from that pool, and use "which". It would be weird if we use "which" for only one thing. But, "who" seems to be true with respect to its usage,because engine has some properties and is able to calculate something in itself. So, it might be reasonable if we assimilate it to a "human". – Ebenin Ami Jan 1 '12 at 21:02
  • There are some unusual circumstances where you can use "who" for an animal, or even a machine, but I don't think "The Turk" (an 18th century fake chess-playing machine) would really qualify. But your point about whether "which" implies there must be at least some other similar things "which don't" is interesting. I honestly don't know the answer to that one - so if you don't ask it as a question here I might do so myself! – FumbleFingers Jan 1 '12 at 22:23

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