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I'm playing an online game in which I came across a message in the form of a sentence of which the structure is new to me.

It read:

You do not have a hatchet which you have the level to use.

The weird part for me start after the word 'which'. Specifically, how can 'the level' be put there? Without 'the level' it is a regular sentence in my opinion, but the sentence as it is now seems inscrutable for me.

Could someone shed some light on this sentence structure please?

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To break it down: weapons such as hatchets require certain amounts of skill or ability, which as Peter Taylor points out are expressed as "levels" in an RPG. So the game might say "you need 3 levels in hatchet-wielding to use this Hand-Axe Of Anhur."

(Often, the word 'level' is one of the most overloaded words in a role-playing game; it can refer, in different contexts, to your character's overall ability rating; what floor of a building (or dungeon) you are on; the difficulty ranking of a skill, spell, or action; or a measure of the toughness of a monster. See http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0012.html for a humorous take on the multiple meanings of the word.)

So the game is saying that "There is not a hatchet in your inventory where your character's abilities meet or exceed the requirements we impose in order for you to make use of such a hatchet."

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Replace "level" with "ability" or "skill" (which is what levels simulate in RPGs), and it doesn't seem at all remarkable to me. If you speak American English, perhaps you're being tripped up by the use of "which" where you would use "that".


Addendum: from your comment, it seems I missed the point, so I'll try again. "A hatchet which you have the level to use" is a single noun which contains a restrictive relative clause.

Consider "You do not have a blue hatchet". There are two possibilities: either you have no hatchets; or you have hatchets, but none of them are blue.

A "which" not separated from a noun by a comma has a similar function to "blue" in that example: it specifies the noun more precisely, or restricts it. So your sentence is equivalent to saying that either you have no hatchets; or you have hatchets, but you don't have the level to use them.

  • Well, I know what 'level' means, but I'm just not a native English speaker. I guess that's the problem. – pimvdb Jan 22 '11 at 18:53
  • @pimvdb: I've expanded my answer. – Peter Taylor Jan 22 '11 at 19:10
  • Thanks alot. Although I know how to use 'which' (I think so at least), I'm just confused by 'the level' which, in my opinion, doesn't really, well, fit there. But am I right in thinking that it means 'You do not have a hatchet, which you have to use according to your level'? – pimvdb Jan 22 '11 at 19:27
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    You do not have a hatchet which someone of your level can use. "Have to" implies that you can't choose not to use it, which is the opposite (the problem is that you don't have one which you can choose to use). – Peter Taylor Jan 22 '11 at 19:41
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It specifically means 'You have a hatchet, but your character isn't at a high enough level to use it.'

You seem to be reading it as 'You don't have a hatchet, and you need one.'

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    That's remarkable, because I didn't have any hatchet with me. Basically I tried to chop down a tree without a hatchet, so as far as I know the second interpretation of you would be more logical. – pimvdb Jan 22 '11 at 18:52
  • In that case the notice is poorly worded, as that is how it reads. – user3444 Jan 22 '11 at 20:48
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You have the level. You don't have the hatchet. Go find one and continue playing.

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