A question of mine on another SE site was corrected from:

I am trying to determine where on Earth has the lowest gravity.


I am trying to determine which on Earth's surface has the lowest gravity.

Why is "which" preferable to "where" in this sentence?

EDIT: The intent of the original sentence was to express "At which location at or near the surface of the planet Earth will an arbitrary mass experience the least acceleration roughly in the direction of the planet's center of mass, assuming that no outside forces are bearing on the mass."

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    The first one is fine. For the second, maybe: "I am trying to determine which point on the Earth's surface has the lowest gravity." – GEdgar Mar 20 '12 at 12:19
  • I do not know the intent of the editor, but I prefer “where on Earth’s surface” to “where on Earth” at least, because “on Earth” sounds like an idiom as in “What on earth is happening here?!” – Tsuyoshi Ito Mar 20 '12 at 13:19
  • @TsuyoshiIto: usually I'd agree, but in this specific context 'where on Earth's surface' differs significantly from 'where on Earth'. – Tim Lymington Mar 20 '12 at 14:02
  • This is General Reference basic English - which requires a noun referent, such as place or position. – FumbleFingers Mar 20 '12 at 17:32

The 'correcting' sentence is incoherent.

In my eyes, the issue with your sentence is that there is no subject for the verb 'has' (from the verb 'to have').

This sentence, 'Where has it gone?' uses 'where' and 'has' but it also contains the pronoun 'it', which represents the subject of the verb 'to have'.

I think that the person who corrected your sentenced tried to use 'which' because 'which' is a pronoun that might be used to give the verb 'to have' a subject (in your sentence). The previous commentor rightly suggested that you use 'is' (from the verb 'to be') in place of 'has'

I would suggest that a construction like this is preferable to both the original and corrected sentences:

'I am trying to determine where is the lowest gravity on Earth'. ('the lowest gravity' is the subject of 'is')

If you wanted to use the verb 'to have' as you did in your example, you would need to say something like, 'I am trying to determine which part of Earth has the lowest gravity'. ('which part of Earth' is the subject of 'has')

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  • When I said 'the last commentor': a) I mean 'commentator' and b) due to the way the comments show on the page I actually mean 'the next commentator'. – Rachel Mar 20 '12 at 13:19
  • Rachel, to refer to another answer to a question on this site, it seems best to use the @ symbol and the answerer's log in name (for example, if you referred to me, it'd be @JLG). The answers get bumped around as they get voted on, so the answer you see above or below your own may change. (I'm new to the site too.) – JLG Mar 20 '12 at 14:22
  • Answers don't even have to get bumped around; you can see them in the order of posting, activity or the number of votes. – Kris Mar 22 '12 at 11:41

It has been changed from a grammatical sentence to an ungrammatical sentence. The change would be possible if it were which city, but I can't see any motivation for the current change.

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  • My guess would be somebody wanted to point out that 'on the surface' altered the conditions of the problem, and failed to correct a typo halfway between where and which point. – Tim Lymington Mar 20 '12 at 12:54
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    Sorry if this is inappropriate, but I can't believe I got 3 up votes for this and ZERO for english.stackexchange.com/questions/61408/… – Brett Reynolds Mar 21 '12 at 1:12
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    @BrettReynolds Because the other answer is too long. Nobody reads it. ;p – Em1 Mar 21 '12 at 12:45

Why not simply "I am trying to determine where on Earth is the lowest gravity."? Less technical but sounds better to me.

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  • 1
    It sounds illogical to me. A place is not a gravity! – Tsuyoshi Ito Mar 20 '12 at 13:13
  • @TsuyoshiIto It's not about what a place is, it's about what at a place exists. – Em1 Mar 21 '12 at 11:39
  • @Em1: Now I see the logic behind this answer, but in that case, I would say something along "I am trying to determine where on Earth the gravity is the weakest." – Tsuyoshi Ito Mar 21 '12 at 14:11

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