Which is correct:

One of the clearest analogies which helps us understand ...


One of the clearest analogies which help us understand ...

I think it's the first one because 'One of ...' is the subject and it's in the singular form, but it doesn't sound right. Which one is grammatically correct?


2 Answers 2


The question you should ask yourself here is whether all the analogies in question help us understand what the sentence goes on to describe or only one of them is true in this statement.

With that said, consider this:

Situation A: There are 5 people standing in front of you. Only 1 of them is a thief. You go on to say:

One of these people, who is a thief, ...

Situation B: There are 5 people standing in front of you and in this scenario, all of them are thieves. You would say:

One of these people who are thieves ...

In situation A, with the who part you describe a certain single person, whereas in situation B you use it to describe the whole group you can pick from.

The same goes for your scenario.

If of all the analogies you can present only 1 helps you to understand what you want to say, you will use:

One of the analogies which helps us understand ...

If all the analogies you're presenting help you understand what you want to say, but for whatever reason you're picking only one to describe the situation, you'll say:

One of the analogies which help us understand ...

  • Yeah, I thought that was the case. It basically boils down to which noun is the main object of the sentence and what its grammatical number is. Thanks
    – hohner
    Apr 7, 2012 at 21:34
  • I'm thinking of something and probably will edit my answer in a few minutes.
    – Frantisek
    Apr 7, 2012 at 21:39
  • Nah sorry, I was trying to describe the problem of proper/improper use of defining and non-defining relative clauses, but my head almost exploded. I'd need 2 more hours to think this through and I don't think you want to make an inception out of this. Looks like you understand the basic idea and that should be enough for you to make the distinction you need to make.
    – Frantisek
    Apr 7, 2012 at 21:56
  • Shouldn't there be a comma before where in "One of the analogies, which helps us understand...". AFAIU this is a non-restricting close and therefore should be separated with a comma . No? Nov 3, 2013 at 11:45

Those are adjectival phrases as they contribute more information to the preceding nouns.

A complex noun is a phrase situated directly after a transitive verb or, in other cases, the subject of a sentence.

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