Modal Verbs


(1) A certain difficulty arises in connection with the choice between who/which and that in relative clauses. With regard to the choice between who and that both are equally appropriate if the antecedent is a vague or generalized noun, or pronoun, e. g.: He’s the sort of man who/that will do anything to help people in trouble. I need someone who/that can so the work quickly.

If, however, the antecedent is more definite or particularized, who is a far more likely choice, e. g.: The aunt who came to see us last week is my father’s sister.

With antecedents denoting things, not persons, the choice of which or that seems more a matter of individual taste; but there are a few cases where that is preferred to which:

(a) when the antecedent is an indefinite pronoun, e. g.: He prom­ised to do all that lies in his power;

(b) when the antecedent is modified by an adjective in the super­lative degree, by only, or by any (this applies also to persons), e. g.: It is the funniest book that has ever been written;

(c) when the antecedent is modified by an ordinal numeral, e. g.: The first word that comes from you will be also your last word in this classroom;

(d) when the antecedent is the complement of to be, e. g.: It’s a book that will be very popular.

Note: When the antecedent is modified by such, as is used as a connective, e. g.: We had to choose from such tickets as were left.

(2) Remember that what, not being a relative pronoun, is nev­er used to join an attributive clause to the main one.

(3) Whose is the only possessive form of the relative pronoun in English, and is used to refer to both persons and things. It is nearly always preferred to the construction of whom, and is also often preferred to of which, e. g.: The man whose coat has been hanging here for the last three hours cannot have gone far. The damaged ship, whose crew has now been’ taken off, was listing dangerously when last seen.

Exercise 1. Join the sentences by changing the second into a relative clause.

1. The pipeline has been severed. It carries the town’s water supplies. 2. There is still a great deal of work. This work has to be done before the building is ready for occupation. 3. London looks forward to the visit of S. Richter. His virtuosity is now a byword among concert-goers. 4. Very few people under­stood his lecture. The subject of his lecture was very obscure. 5. The gales caused widespread damage. They swept across south­ern England last night. 6. The editorial board are planning a new magazine. The readers of this magazine will be, they hope, all boys and girls of school age.

Exercise 2. Insert the correct relative pronoun where necessary.

1. Everything . . . happened after that seemed unreal. 2. I am going out to buy some food, . . . will take me about half an hour. 3. Did you understand all … you read in that book? 4. Nothing . . . Shakespeare wrote is entirely without merit. 5. Did you hear the story … he told about his stay with us? 6. The man . . . called round this morning had a funny face. 7. All … glitters is not gold. 8. It is the most heart-rending story … I have read for a long time. 9. This was the wittiest speaker … has yet addressed this Society. 10. The woman … he married was once in actress.

Exercise 3 . Add relative clauses defining the italicized words. Note that restrictive relative clauses of this type are not separated by a comma.

1. Students generally like a teacher … 2. Teachers generally like students … 3. Is that all the work …? 4. Children like mints and uncles … 5. Men dislike women … 6. Women dislike men … 7. The excuse . . . was unacceptable. 8. The stretch of Water … is called the English Channel . 9. They will have to pay [or the damage ] … 10. I am sure there isn’t anyone among the .audience here tonight … 11. My father is a man … 12. I detest people … 13. France is a country . ..

Exercise 4. Practise using what in a complex sentence. Remember that it 1 not a relative pronoun, but that it is a connective frequently used in English to introduce object clauses, and also subject and predicative clauses. Complete the sentences with a clause introduced by what.

E. g. / can’t imagine … I can’t imagine what induced him to ‘In such a thing.

1. No one could understand … 2. Were you surprised at .. .? 3. I’d rather you didn’t say anything about .. . the best books from . 4. Would this be …? 5. I think he should have told me . 6. Will you think over .. .? 7. .. . was the fact that she passed her examination despite her long absence from school. 8. It’s a pity you weren’t at the meeting to hear …