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I'm confused about the role of "from" in the sentence

Where I'm from, nobody talks to me like that.

According to Merriam-Webster, "from" is always a preposition (unlike e.g. "on", which can be a preposition, an adverb or an adjective.) But if "from" is a preposition in the sentence above, then where is its object?

2 Answers 2

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There are two things involved here.

The first is that Yes, prepositions are often employed 'intransitively', without an object: for instance, the prepositions in verbal idioms like sit down and stand up.

The second is that although where ordinarily stands for an entire preposition phrase—the store where I buy my beer is equivalent to the store at which I buy my beer—the implied preposition is often supplemented with an express preposition. Because the 'default' interpretation of where is that it designates a static location, the supplemental preposition is almost obligatory when where designates not a static location but the origin or a goal of some motion. For instance,

Where I am designates my present location, but

Where I am from adds the preposition from to indicate that where designates my origin, not my location.

But supplemental prepositions are not limited to situations like this: they are also used with ordinary locatives, sometimes with a particular idomatic sense. Back in the 60s, for instance, the phrase where it's at was a common designation for clubs and other venues regarded as especially fashionable:

They got a little place a-down the track
The name of the place is I like it like that
You take Sally and I'll take Sue
And we're gonna rock away all of our blues
Come on, come on, let me show you where it's at
The name of the place is I like it like that.
     —'I Like It Like That', Chris Kenner


Traditional grammar called them 'adverbs' and some modern grammarians call them 'particles'.

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  • Thanks! In "sit down" and "stand up", "down" and "up" are clearly adverbs, not prepositions. I suppose that makes me a traditionalist. In any case, this is not what I meant when I mentioned prepositions in my question. So is the word "from" in my example sentence also a preposition in the traditionalist sense?
    – animis
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 23:21
  • @animis Here's one of the arguments for treating these words as prepositions. CGEL treats the matter at considerable length in Ch. 7, §2.4, 612-617. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 23:30
  • Thank you. I had a look at CGEL and found it very interesting.
    – animis
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 21:46
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In the sentence, "Where are you from?" the pronoun "where" is clearly the object of the preposition. The same applies to the phrase, "Where I am from..."

The traditional form of the question would have been "From where have you come?" "From where" avoids the dangling preposition at the end of the sentence. "Have you come", is past perfect because at the time when the speaker is speaking, the action (come) is complete.

By modern standards, the rule against the dangling preposition is dismissed as an artificial attempt to impose Latin grammar on English, and we often prefer to refer to "being from somewhere" as a current state of being rather than "coming from somewhere" as a completed action. Therefore, the common question, "Where are you from?"

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