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A student asked me if they can say: "The crabs are still alive which we caught yesterday."

Instead of: "The crabs which we caught yesterday are still alive."

The student's example sounds incorrect to me. Is it wrong and if so why or why not?

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  • Examples like yours where the relative clause has been postposed to the end of the sentence are acceptable provided there is no doubt as to the intended antecedent. Your example is acceptable but not ideal, especially as there is an obviously clearer alternant available. Better examples would be "A stranger came into the room who looked just like Uncle Oswald" / "Kim lent a book to Ed which contained all the information he needed".
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 9:24

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You're right.

correct: The crabs which we caught yesterday are still alive.

The crabs are still alive- main clause/principal clause

Which we caught yesterday- relative clause/subordinate clause/dependent clause

The crabs which we caught yesterday are still alive.

The relative pronoun 'which' refers to 'the crabs'. The relative clause 'which we caught yesterday' gives us more information about 'the crabs'. We put it just after 'the crabs'.

We can leave out 'which'.

The crabs we caught yesterday are still alive.

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  • It's common when the meaning is clear to have a defining relative clause after the verb or some other place - see the duplicate.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 9:25

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