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  1. The boy who ate fruit came.
  2. The boy came who ate fruit. Here both sentences have relative clause "who ate fruit" and a principal clause "the boy came". Here is my question: Both sentences convey same meaning right? If they're different what is the difference in meaning? And could we use verb of principal clause after a relative clause as in sentence 1 and word order of sentence 1 is correct?
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  • I don't think the second one is a correct sentence.
    – user405662
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 8:15
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    The matrix clause (your principal clause) is not "the boy came", but the "The boy who ate fruit came". Postposing of relative clauses is possible, providing there is no doubt as to what the antecedent is. Your second example is grammatically OK, but stylistically awkward.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 8:48
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    Yes. The relative clause has been moved to the end from its position following the antecedent. The rule that moves it is called Extraposition from NP. Since this is a syntactic transformation, there is no difference in meaning, just usage. Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 13:52
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    I think the term 'extraposition' is best used for those constructions where a subject clause is moved to the end of a clause and is replaced by the dummy subject "it", as in "[That he was acquitted] surprised her" ~ "It surprised her [that he was acquitted]". The OP's example contains simple postposing of the relative clause to the end of the clause containing it antecedent.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 8:15

1 Answer 1

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As John Lawler commented:

Yes. The relative clause has been moved to the end from its position following the antecedent. The rule that moves it is called Extraposition from NP. Since this is a syntactic transformation, there is no difference in meaning, just usage.

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  • This device sounds more natural when used with a weighty relative clause. I'd say 'The boy came who ate fruit' would only be heard in normal conversation where the relative clause is added as an afterthought. However, 'The boy who ate all the fruit the caterers provided the last time a party was held in the community centre came' is in dire need of this rearrangement (whatever the majority vote for its name is at the moment: 'Extraposition from NP' vs 'Postposement'). Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 14:32

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