Hermione always liked to go through their exam papers afterward, but
Ron said this made him feel ill, so they wandered down to the lake and
flopped under a tree. The Weasley twins and Lee Jordan were tickling
the tentacles of a giant squid, which was basking in the warm
shallows. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
Though the head of noun phrase before ‘which’ is tentacles, ‘which’ seems to refer to squid, because of the singular verb ‘was’. Can ‘which’ refer to the closest noun before it, not the head?
Yes, it can refer to the closest noun too, as in the following sentence.
All I can say is that I finally picked up Gima’s cookbook last spring at the age of 41, when I found it at the bottom of a box, which I was finally unpacking because I was finally settling into the house where I hope and pray to finally stay put.
It is the box being unpacked, not the bottom of the box.
It depends on the context, though. In the following sentence, which is not referring to crime but to “he has never been convicted of a crime.”
He has never been convicted of a crime, which suggests that he doesn’t pose a threat to society, legal experts said.
It’s not a crime that suggests he doesn’t pose a threat to society, but the fact he has never been convicted of a crime.
Source : Link , Question Author : Listenever , Answer Author : apaderno