There is a grammarians' rule that whose must not be used of inanimate objects: we may say "authors whose books are famous", but we must not say "books whose authors are famous"; we must fall back on an ugly roundabout way of putting it, and say "books the authors of which are famous".

So say the grammarians. But the rule is so cramping and so pointless that the more broad-minded among them are in revolt. Fowler says, for instance, "to ask a man to write flexible English but forbid him whose `as a relative pronoun of the inanimate' is like sending a soldier on active service and insisting that his tunic and collar shall be too tight. . . . Let us in the name of common-sense prohibit the prohibition of whose inanimate".

There are signs that Fowler's advice is now being followed:

The hospital whose characteristics and associations link it with a particular religious denomination.

That revolution the full force of whose effects we are beginning to feel.

There has been built up a single centrally organised blood-transfusion service whose object is . . .

« Grammar » « Guide » « ABC of Plain Words » « Use Of English » « Library » « Home »