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Routines offer a structure within which to prepare for performance.

I'm having trouble untangling the relative pronoun clause into a sentence of its own. At first glance, the two sentences combined seem to be simple. However, when attempted, there seems to be no subject for the relative pronoun clause.

Routines offer a structure.

Within the structure to prepare for performance. (lacks subject)

This has me questioning whether or not the original sentence is grammatically correct, which seems intuitively implausible. Any tips?

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  • 1
    I think the problem is the use of the infinitive of "prepare". If you insert something like "one may", or "we can" in place of the "to" the problem disappears. As originally written there can be no subject for the verb "to prepare" because infinitives do not have subjects.
    – BoldBen
    Apr 17 at 10:26
  • Most (but not all) non-finite clauses have no overt subject. But we understand them as having a subject. In your example, we could paraphrase the clause with indefinite “one”: “... within which one can prepare for performance”.
    – BillJ
    Apr 17 at 11:54
  • One possible split into shorter sentences: 'Structures within which to prepare for performance exist. Routines offer such a structure.' Apr 17 at 11:54
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  • Routines offer a structure within which to prepare for performance.

This is a case of postmodification by infinitive clause (CoGEL p. 1265 § 17.30).

Unlike -ing and -ed clauses, infinitive clauses as postmodifiers in noun phrases allow correspondences with relative clauses where the relative pronoun can be not only subject, but also object or adverbial and, to a limited extent, complement:

S: The man to help you is Mr Johnson. ['who can help you'] [1]
O: The man (for you) to see is Mr Johnson. ['Who(m) you should see'] [2]
[…]
Unlike [1], [2] can have an optional subject of the infinitive clause introduced by for. Without such a subject,the infinitive clause in [2] could be understood, according to context, as ' (The man) that you/he/everyone, etc. should see'.

There is not actually a relative clause (for which a subject would be necessary), but there exists a correspondence with a relative clause.

Corresponding relative clause

  • Routines offer a structure within which everyone/they/… can¹ prepare(s) for performance. ("Which" is an adverbial.)

¹ Modal added after remark by user John Lawler

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  • There's a modal involved in this construction, but surprisingly CGEL didn't mention it. Note that the relative clause translations of all the example sentences have modal auxiliary verbs in them. It's not nearly as simple as they make out. Consequently, the translation offered in the last sentence should be something like ... can prepare for performance, with a modal. Apr 17 at 17:37
  • @JohnLawler I agree; I neglected it intently, as there is no remark on that point, and only the unfailing use of a modal in several examples; I believed that the infinitival aspect was only one of two options. However, your remark makes me aware of a possible necessity to render only an infinitival aspect of the action, which a modal seems to restore into the reading.
    – LPH
    Apr 18 at 0:01
  • @LPH Sorry to nitpick but intently? Apr 18 at 0:15
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    @user405662 Yes, with reasoned determination, if I may say so: I had in fact first written the modal in the sentence, and decided to remove it after a while.
    – LPH
    Apr 18 at 0:20
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It's understandable, but not totally clear. Rewrite in simpler form.

"Routines can structure performance preparation."

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