General Writing and Grammar Help/clauses

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Question
Dear Ted,

Thank you again for all of your great help.

To test my understanding, would you please tell me if the following is correct or not:

In the sentence – “Can you tell me who wrote the book?” there is no antecedent for the pronoun “who”.    Therefore “who” is not a relative pronoun in this sentence.  In this sentence the pronoun “who” is an “interrogative pronoun”.  Therefore, in this sentence - “who wrote the book” would be a “noun clause”.  Another possibility is that the clause - “who wrote the book” is a “dangling clause” that can be corrected by adding an antecedent to the main clause by saying -  “Can you tell me the name of the author who wrote the book?”  In this sentence “who wrote the book” would now be a Relative Clause (also called Adjective Clause).

Thank you very, very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

Before I read your suggestions, I am going to analyze your sentence, "Can you tell me who wrote the book?"

***********

The entire sentence is interrogative.  Within the sentence there is also a clause that is also interrogative.  The first question asks if someone CAN TELL the name [of an author]; the second question specifically asks WHO that author is.

By rearranging the words to make an indicative sentence, I end up with "You can tell me who wrote the book."

The main/independent clause consists of these elements:

You = subject
can tell = verb
who wrote the book = noun clause used as the direct object of "can tell [what]"
me = indirect object [you can tell TO me]

The subordinate clause consists of these elements:

who = subject
wrote = verb
book = direct object

Since the subordinate clause is interrogative, I would label the subject "who" as a "interrogative pronoun," simply because a question is being asked.

Here is information about this kind of subordinate clause:

Wh- Words in Noun Clauses
"Inside the noun clause, the wh- words that are nouns can play all four noun roles of subject, object of verb, object of preposition, and predicate nominative. The wh- words that are adverbs can play the standard adverb roles of denoting time, place, manner, and reason. In the following examples, note that all of the noun clauses play the same external role of subject of the verb in the main sentence:

   Wh- words used as nouns inside wh- clauses
   Subject: Whoever finishes first wins the prize.
   Object of verb: Whatever I said must have been a mistake.
   Object of preposition: What they agreed to is OK with me.
   Predicate nominative: Who they were is still unknown.

   Wh- words used as adverbs inside wh- clauses
   Adverb of time: When you called was not a good time for me.
   Adverb of place: Where you work is very important.
   Adverb of manner: How you use your leisure time tells a lot about you.
   Adverb of reason: Why they said that remains a complete mystery to us.

It is important to understand that noun clauses beginning with wh- words that are adverbs are just as much noun clauses as noun clauses beginning with wh- words that are nouns."
(Mark Lester, McGraw-Hill's Essential ESL Grammar. McGraw-Hill, 2008)

*****




To test my understanding, would you please tell me if the following is correct or not:

In the sentence – “Can you tell me who wrote the book?” there is no antecedent for the pronoun “who”.  

CORRECT

 Therefore “who” is not a relative pronoun in this sentence.  In this sentence the pronoun “who” is an “interrogative pronoun”.

CORRECT

Therefore, in this sentence - “who wrote the book” would be a “noun clause”.

CORRECT

 Another possibility is that the clause - “who wrote the book” is a “dangling clause”

**** Clauses do not dangle; phrases do.  This possibility is INCORRECT.

that can be corrected by adding an antecedent to the main clause by saying -  “Can you tell me the name of the author who wrote the book?”  In this sentence “who wrote the book” would now be a Relative Clause (also called Adjective Clause).

CORRECT -- This change makes the functions of the sentence's content easier to understand. The entire sentence remains a question.  However, "who wrote the book" is no longer a question.  It modifies the noun "author," so "who wrote the book" is no longer a NOUN clause.  It is an ADJECTIVE clause, introduced by a relative pronoun.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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