Resumptive Pronouns In English

In the book "Resumptive Pronouns at the Interfaces" by Alain Rouveret, the author quotes the following two sentences from Ross 1967.


(1) a. I just saw a girl who Long John's claim that <em>she</em> was a Venusian made all the headlines.


b. The only kind of car which I can never seem to get <em>its</em> carburetor adjusted right is them Stanley Steamers.


The author then states, "Neither in (1a), nor in (1b) is it possible to substitute a gap for the italicized pronoun. Conversly, in English, resumption is not available in the structures where Subjacency is not violated ((2))."


(2) a. I saw the boy that Mary loves <em>him</em>. <-- possible in Irish though. :)

b. I saw the both that Mary loves _____.


My question is this, why would you even need to use a resumptive pronoun in 1b? For instance, this sentence could be reworded as either of the following:


3a. The only kind/make of car WHOSE carburetor(s) I can never seem to get adjusted right is the Stanely Steamer. 


3b. The only kind/make of car FOR WHICH I can never seem to get A CARBURETOR adjusted right is the Stanely Steamer. (British English)


3c. The only kind/make of car WHICH I can never seem to get A CARBURETOR adjusted right FOR is the Stanely Steamer. (American English)


In 3a, the relative pronoun "whose" eliminates the pronoun "its" in the relative clause, simplifies the sentence so it can be understood easier, and provides a gap, doesn't it?


Likewise, in 3b and 3c, the use of the indefinite article along with the preposition "for" also eliminates the need of the resumptive pronoun "its" while also providing a gap there, doesn't it? Of course, perhaps this wording opens up the possibility of other carburetors aside from the ones that come with the car from the factory. 


Hmmmm. Am I missing something?

Mar 9, 2015 5:16 AM
Comments · 13

Hi Shawn,


Actually, I agree - I'd just rewrite the sentence. In the examples with resumptive pronouns (new to me, too), the subject of the relative clause is different to the subject of the sentence, and even then the subject of the sentence turns into the subject of the subordinate clause of the relative clause (1a) or possessive (1b). *brainmelt*


"...and the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part." :) It's the inception of clauses! Clause-ception!


Dorothy, I think you have the "who" rule in mind, which does refer to humans. "Whose" can work as a possessive for anything.

March 9, 2015

Who knew grammar could be so exciting?

March 9, 2015

It makes my brain melt too.


Just want to point out that the British/ American distinction doesn't work. As a very minor point, British English spells the word 'carburetor' differently (we use two 't's), but the main point is that the grammar is the same. The structure is identical in British and American English.


3b is awkward

3c is more natural

March 9, 2015

Thanks everyone! I love learning about English here. It's like getting a bonus prize or something. :D

March 12, 2015


I had the same reaction about a practice SAT item. Thinking too fast, I immediately identified 

" whose ....." as incorrect.  My 10th grade student got it right and laughed throughout the rest of the session. :P

March 10, 2015
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