I know how to say the following in other words but I would like to know how to make relative clause for it:

A boy, the search for whom took a month.


A boy, for whom the search took a month.

Additional question regarding word order:

I know him for what he is.

Will the negative clause be like this?

I do not know him for what he is.

And question:

Do you know him for what he is?


All five examples are correct.

But I recommend "the search for whom" over "for whom the search". The reason is that, in "a boy, for whom", the preposition may at first be interpreted as the regular meaning of "for", as in "the boy, for whom nothing was enough", or "the boy, for whom I will do anything". Then later the reader has to reinterpret "for" when he sees "search".

But in "the search for whom", the idiomatic combination "search for" is clear before any other reading can be applied. In other words, "for" only appears after "search", so that the reader has all the right information to correctly read "for" as soon as it appears.

  • @Pietro: Wow, you're fast! Thanks for accepting my answer. I have up-voted your question; you could do the same for my answer if you wish (it is independent of accepting). – Cerberus Mar 10 '12 at 16:45
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    The term for this kind of preposed relative pronoun construction is Pied-Piping, by the way. – John Lawler Mar 10 '12 at 16:50
  • I agree that grammatically all five are correct. However it is extremely unlikely that I do not know him for what he is (present tense) would be used since until you learn differently you just think "I know him." It's only after you find out the truth that you might say, "I did not know him for what he is." – Jim Mar 10 '12 at 16:51
  • @Jim: In daily speech, yes; but if you take into account irony, fictional stories, poetry... – Cerberus Mar 10 '12 at 17:54
  • Cerberus, perhaps you could change your opening sentence so it doesn't refer to the first two examples as proper sentences. Neither of them has a verb and the commas after boy are odious. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Mar 10 '12 at 18:48

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