Within the English language, several phrases can cause some confusion, of which a typical example is “of which”. We use it so often, we rarely stop to think about what it means or even if you’re using it correctly.
Today, I want to talk about what “Of which” means and how you can ensure you’re always using it correctly.
What does “of which” mean?
Of which is a prepositional phrase used before a relative clause. In simple English, that means it’s a phrase that modifies the clause which comes after it. It has a similar meaning to words such as “and”, “but”, and “although”.
“A prepositional phrase before a relative clause”
What is a prepositional phrase?
Let’s start off by talking about what a “prepositional phrase” is.
A prepositional phrase is used at the beginning of a clause to modify it.
A prepositional phrase is usually made up of a preposition word and an object. In the case of “of which”, the “of” is a preposition and the “which” is the object.
Other examples of prepositional phrases include “in the bin”, “over the hill”, “of the world”.
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What is a relative clause?
Most of the time, when you use a prepositional phrase (“of which”, or anything else), you will use it at the start of a relative clause.
I know you haven’t heard that word since school, but let me refresh your memory.
A relative clause is a clause that is related to the other clause. If you take out the independent clause, the sentence stops making sense.
For example, “She ate a lot of ice cream, of which her favourite was chocolate”.
“She ate a lot of ice cream” makes sense on it’s own.
But, “Of which her favourite was chocolate” does not make sense as it’s own sentence.
What are we saying by “of which”?
To fully understand the rules around “of which”, it can be helpful for us to look at what exactly we’re saying by it.
You could say, “in relation to the previously mentioned noun, the most prominent example is”. However, you don’t want to be using long phrases in writing or speaking. The whole purpose of language is to convey our ideas in ways that others can understand.
So, instead of using phrases like that, it will be easier to just say “of which”.
“I had 10 tasks to do. In relation to my tasks, the most prominent example in the hierarchy of difficulty was doing my taxes” is far too long.
Examples of how to use “of which” in a sentence
“The houses have gone , and it is now to Rawstorne Street , the earlier houses of which no doubt incoherent , even desolate , place.”
“20 of which were 150 watt globes and 15 of which were 100 watt globes.”
“This is partic – ularly true of the Serliana , a proper understanding of which requires a detailed examination of its use from the court of Pope Julius II.”
“There are four examples in the de tempore collection , three of which relate to the life of Moses.”
Alternatives to “Of which”
Another way to help you to understand what a phrase means is by looking at synonyms. By looking at things that mean the same as something else, you can spot the ones you recognise, helping you understand bigger words with similar meanings.
Let’s continue with our first example of the girl who liked ice cream.
“She ate a lot of ice cream, and her favourite was chocolate”.
“She ate a lot of ice cream, but her favourite was chocolate”.
“She ate a lot of ice cream, however her favourite was chocolate”.
“She ate a lot of ice cream, although her favourite was chocolate”.
Rearranging the sentence
There are ways of rephrasing “of which” without using synonyms. For example, we could move around the location of the words or even change the sentence structure.
“She ate a lot of ice cream, her favourite of which was chocolate”.
Here, the sentence has stayed the same, bar from moving the “of which”.
“She ate a lot of ice cream. Her favourite was chocolate”.
In this example, the emphasis has changed, as we are giving equal weight to the fact her favourite is chocolate as we are to the point she eats a lot of ice cream.
Which vs Witch
When you’re writing “of which”, make sure to never spell it as “of witch”. Because “which” and “witch” have vastly different meanings.
“Which” can either be used to ask for information (which way do I go now?)’ or refer to something previously mentioned (which is what this article is about).
“Witch”, on the other hand, is a type of magical female who likes to cast spells and hang out with Harry Potter.
If something is “of witch”, that means it comes from Hermione granger.
Etymology of “of” and “which”
Which comes from the Old English word “hwilc”, which meant “of what form”.
This word came from the Proto-Germanic “Hwa-lik”, which came from the Proto-Indo-European word “kwo”. “kwo” is where we get words such as where, whence, which, who, and why.
“Of” has changed meaning over time. The word itself comes from the Old English “æf”, which meant “away”. This comes from the Proto-Germanic “af”, which is from the Proto-Indo-European “apo”. All of which mean “away”.
The meaning of “of” that we use today came about during middle English. And when the printing press was invented, “of” became short for terms such as “could of” and “must of”.
“Of which” is one of those phrases we use all the time and very rarely give much of a second thought to. Like with anything we say, it’s good to know what we’re saying and if we’re using the English language correctly.
Hopefully, now, you have a better idea of how to use “of which”. In the future, you will not be misusing it again. There has been lots of information in this article, of which the most important is a guide on how to use “of which”.