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Which is correct?
Most cars are designed to be driven on mostly flat ground, ...
A. ... whether SUVs or sports cars.
B. ... whether they are SUVs or sports cars.
- 1 month agoFavorite Answer
This sentence teaches a couple really important (and interesting) things.
The correct answer is “B,” and I’ll explain why.
While both read correctly and would be understood, the sentence segment beginning with “whether” is called a dependent clause. It can’t stand on its own as a sentence; it depends on the main clause.
More than that, it is an adjectival dependent clause, the whole thing acting as an adjective, modifying the noun “cars.”
Following so far? Here’s the great lesson: when we place modifiers like adjectives in a sentence, they should be right next to what they modify. So whichever noun is closest to the modifier gets the force of the modifier.
So if we use this incorrect construction:
“Most cars are designed to be driven on mostly flat ground, whether SUVs or sports cars.” Notice there is another noun “ground” right next to our adjectival phrase! It almost looks like we are describing ground types as SUV’s and sports versions. And that’s not going to work.
So to remedy this, we insert the pronoun “they.” And that attaches to the main subject, “cars” and is now right in there to be modified by the phrase. We use the pronoun as a tool to bring the proper thing to be modified closest to the modifier.
This is a very subtle thing in writing and grammar, but a worthwhile one to learn.
I wanted to add this bonus:
If we wanted to use the adjectival phrase without the pronoun? We just have to move the whole thing so it sits closer to the noun we are modifying, like this:
“Most cars, whether SUV’s or sports cars, are designed to be driven on mostly flat ground.”