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I have the following sentence

A Terminal Interface is used to interact with the Operating System that acts as an intermediary between the user and the computer hardware.

I want to make sure that the operating system would be interpreted as the intermediary, and not the Terminal Interface. But do not know whether my sentence might cause confusion.

Should I rewrite it and how would the modification look like?

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  • I would not close this question because it is an example of a common problem and many others will profit from the answer.
    – Ben
    Oct 3, 2023 at 9:24

1 Answer 1

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Your question is a good illustration of a grammatical problem many beginners face: How to refer to specific parts of a preceding clause.

As a demonstrative pronoun, that introduces a restrictive relative clause and serves as a substitute within that clause for the substantive modified by the clause. In other words, the clause following that explains the word or phrase that immediately precedes it, in this case "operating system".

If you want to refer back to the subject of the preceding clause (in your case "terminal interface"), you would use a personal pronoun, in your case "it" (as interface is a thing, not a person). You could do that in two ways:

A Terminal Interface is used to interact with the Operating System and it acts as an intermediary between the user and the computer hardware.

A Terminal Interface is used to interact with the Operating System. It acts as an intermediary between the user and the computer hardware.

But since you want to refer back to the prase that precedes the pronoun, you need to use "that". That is, the example as you give it is correct and means what you want it to mean.

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  • Would you know of a good rule book for grammar I can read ?
    – Prego
    Oct 3, 2023 at 15:06
  • Is it a rule that a reference to "it" would refer to the phrase preceding it, in the english language ? How would one refer to the first clause instead.
    – Prego
    Oct 3, 2023 at 15:10
  • You say that "it" refers to the subject of the main clause. The main clause is "A Terminal Interface is used to interact with the Operating System", whose subject is "a terminal interface". Thusly, "it" refers te the subject which is "a terminal interface", and not "an operating system".
    – Prego
    Oct 3, 2023 at 15:26
  • But I want something different. "It" should refer to the "Operating System", which is not the subject of the sentence.
    – Prego
    Oct 3, 2023 at 16:41
  • So it is good as I had it. Glad to hear.
    – Prego
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:48

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