March 19, 2019, 01:28:54 PM


Author Topic: What: Interrogative or relative pronoun?  (Read 156 times)

Online Mister Tim

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What: Interrogative or relative pronoun?
« on: March 12, 2019, 02:33:20 PM »
A coteacher asked me about this sentence today:

"We talked about what life in high school would be like."

He wanted to know whether "what" in that sentence is functioning as an interrogative or as a relative pronoun.

I know that "what" isn't generally used as a relative pronoun, and that relative pronouns usually follow the noun to which they are relative ("I shot the man who killed my father."). I also know that in interrogatives are generally used in questions, but can also be used in interrogative clauses ("I wonder what I'll have for lunch.").

Given all of that, I told him that I think it's an interrogative. However, he said this was a question a former student asked him about, and that the student's High School English textbook said it was a relative pronoun. Can anyone explain either why/how it's a relative pronoun, or confirm that the book is wrong and that it's an interrogative?

Thanks!

Online eggieguffer

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Re: What: Interrogative or relative pronoun?
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2019, 03:08:44 PM »
A coteacher asked me about this sentence today:

"We talked about what life in high school would be like."

He wanted to know whether "what" in that sentence is functioning as an interrogative or as a relative pronoun.

I know that "what" isn't generally used as a relative pronoun, and that relative pronouns usually follow the noun to which they are relative ("I shot the man who killed my father."). I also know that in interrogatives are generally used in questions, but can also be used in interrogative clauses ("I wonder what I'll have for lunch.").

Given all of that, I told him that I think it's an interrogative. However, he said this was a question a former student asked him about, and that the student's High School English textbook said it was a relative pronoun. Can anyone explain either why/how it's a relative pronoun, or confirm that the book is wrong and that it's an interrogative?

Thanks!

I'd have said it's only an interrogative if it's conveying the idea of a question. IE something someone could answer.
E.g.

I wonder what i'll have for breakfast -  'Umm, I know, sausages'. (answer)
"We talked about what life in high school would be like."   Umm, that sounds interesting (no answer)
He wanted to know what life in highschool would be like "Ummm, hard work probably. " (answer) 

 
« Last Edit: March 12, 2019, 03:10:32 PM by eggieguffer »

Online Mister Tim

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Re: What: Interrogative or relative pronoun?
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2019, 03:19:19 PM »


I'd have said it's only an interrogative if it's conveying the idea of a question. IE something someone could answer.
E.g.

I wonder what i'll have for breakfast -  'Umm, I know, sausages'. (answer)
"We talked about what life in high school would be like."   Umm, that sounds interesting (no answer)

Yeah, I wondered about that, since most of the examples of interrogative clauses i came across while looking into it were examples similar to that one. The sentence does still follow the pattern of inverting the words when changing an interrogative into an interrogative clause:

What would life in high school be like? > We talked about what life in high school would be like.

And you could use that same clause in a sentence which someone could answer:

"I wondered what life in high school would be like."

The clause is the same, but is it interrogative in that example but not in the other? Could you explain the difference?

Or, if it isn't an interrogative, is it actually a relative pronoun? Or is it something else entirely?

These things don't usually trip me up this much, but this isn't as straightforward as the questions I usually get, and I want to make sure I'm not giving my coworker incorrect information.  :laugh:
« Last Edit: March 12, 2019, 03:23:54 PM by Mister Tim »

Online SanderB

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Re: What: Interrogative or relative pronoun?
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2019, 08:48:40 PM »
My guess is that I=Subject know=predicator= what= object  the rest=object complement.

But I should look it up.
Object complement definition: An object complement is a word that follows a direct object to state what it has become. An object complement may be a noun, pronoun, or adjective.

 Relative pronouns, like conjunctions, are words that join clauses—in this case, a relative clause to its main clause. The type of relative pronoun used depends on what kind of noun is being described.

Who: Refers to a person (as the verb’s subject)


Whom: Refers to a person (as the verb’s object)

Which: Refers to an animal or thing

What: Refers to a nonliving thing

That: Refers to a person, animal, or thing

Coming from shower and heading off, still havent checked but it strikes me as if he didnt 'just' wanted to know but had other intentions. He was asking for the syntactical function of that word and who needs to know that in Korea?
« Last Edit: March 12, 2019, 09:07:21 PM by SanderB »
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Online Mr C

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Re: What: Interrogative or relative pronoun?
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2019, 07:31:59 AM »
He was asking for the syntactical function of that word and who needs to know that in Korea?
Anyone who hopes to do well in high school English ...

Online Mister Tim

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Re: What: Interrogative or relative pronoun?
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2019, 09:26:44 AM »
Okay, I think I've figured it out.

I was thrown off by the lack of noun or pronoun to which "what" is referring (which is generally something you'd find when using a relative pronoun), and by most sources not listing "what" as a commonly used or accepted relative pronoun.

However, there is apparently a type of relative clause called a free relative clause (also known as a fused relative clause or a headless relative clause) that contains the antecedent within itself, and thus doesn't require a preceding noun or pronoun. In that case, the list of words one can use as relative pronouns is slightly different than those that can be used with restrictives and appositives. Specifically, in those cases it is acceptable to use "what" and "how" as relative pronouns.

Here's a nice summary of the construction:

https://www.thoughtco.com/free-nominal-relative-clause-1690808

And now I'm off to eat crow and explain to my CoT how I was wrong, haha.

Online SanderB

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Re: What: Interrogative or relative pronoun?
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2019, 04:47:10 AM »
nice, headless rings a bell, yeah. Thx for looking it up
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