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Is the word 'whose' referring to an inanimate object correct in this sentence? Is there a more appropriate word?

Basically I'm wondering if a sentence like this is grammatically correct: "Meaning is thwarted by its delivery, whose poetry is relative to taste." I cannot avoid it with, "Meaning is thwarted by its delivery; its poetry is relative to taste" because 'its' seems to refer to 'meaning.' There needs to be a word like 'whichs' or something. Or is there?

Please clarify my question if you know the proper grammatical labels for what I'm talking about; I know them not.

  • 3
    This question gets asked over and over and over and over and over and over again, every single week, sometimes twice a day. And it's very basic, too. Please search before posting, or just look up "whose" in a dictionary of your choice to see that it is perfectly fine. Thank you. – RegDwigнt May 2 '12 at 9:04

There's no problem with the usage you mention: "whose" can have both inanimate or animate referents (and there's no such form "which's"). Don't get confused into thinking that "whose" is just some weird spelling of "who's": its meaning and syntax are different.

As for a grammatical label, there's no single "proper" grammatical label: it depends on the particular framework of analysis you're using. In some Chomskyan frameworks, "whose" would be referred to as a "wh-determiner". I'm not sure why that matters for your purposes or what you lose by just referring to it using the grammatical label "whose"...

  • The authors of the Longman grammar call it an interrogative determiner when it introduces an interrogative clause and a relative determiner when, as in the OP's example, it introduces a relative clause. – Barrie England May 2 '12 at 7:10
  • Yeah, different people will call it different spurious things. I'm still curious as to what it buys you over just calling it "whose". – Neil Coffey May 2 '12 at 14:04

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