Which one sounds natural for native English speakers among the following three sentences:

  1. This door cannot be opened without removing the key from the lock.
  2. This door cannot be opened without the key removed from the lock.
  3. This door cannot be opened with the key inserted in the lock.

I think the first one is simplest, but I am not sure it is grammatically correct because the subject of "without" differs from the subject of the sentence.

  • I would use unless: This door cannot be opened unless the key is inserted into the lock. I would also ask a question like this one on English Language Learners.
    – J.R.
    Dec 20, 2016 at 0:26
  • The door cannot be opened when the key is in the lock. #2 Is definitely wrong. If you want us to choose one of the three, I choose #1.
    – ab2
    Dec 20, 2016 at 2:03
  • @J.R. I think that unless gives the opposite sense to what the OP wants.
    – JavaLatte
    Dec 20, 2016 at 10:16
  • @JavaLatte - I think you might be right....
    – J.R.
    Dec 20, 2016 at 14:35

2 Answers 2


Of the three, #1 sounds the most natural. "The door cannot be opened until the key is taken out." would be more clear. The "until" implies that the key has been inserted with the intention of opening the door and that the key then needs to be removed in order for the door to open.

  • I would say "has been taken out", but this is probably just nitpicking :D. Either way, I second the vote for #1. Dec 20, 2016 at 9:28

I would choose 1.

But if you wanted to use "with", I would take out the word "inserted" i.e.,

This door cannot be opened with the key in the lock.

Just to make it less wordy. We already assume that the key has been inserted into the lock because of the preposition "in".

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