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“Whose” and “Of Which”

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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When a possessive form is called for by the sentence, the word that has to bow out and rely on which to borrow a preposition to show possession. An example will show what I mean:

Congress passed the statute, the purpose of which was to lower taxes.

The words which and that have no possessive form. Here the of which is showing the state of the statute possessing a purpose. We cannot say, that’s purpose or which’s purpose. We have to use which, flip it over, and connect it to statute by using the of which form. The word that will not accommodate a preceding preposition.

Of course, if you write lots of reports crammed with lots of of whiches, you won’t further your career. So Miss Hamrick, Igor, and Amber made a deal with the personal relative pronouns. The who-whom-whose combo, with its possessive whose, agreed to allow that and which to borrow whose when they needed to show possession. Thus, it is grammatically correct to write:

Congress passed the statute, whose purpose was to lower taxes.

After all, who on earth would say:

It was an idea the time of which had come.


It was an idea whose time had come.


Previous: 5. Relative Pronouns Next: Who, Whom, Whose

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