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I am reading a journal and found a sentence which seems wrong. The sentence is,

It is apparent that the errors originate from outside the model.

This sentence used from and outside together which are supposed to be preposition here. I guess double preposition is not allowed in the English Grammar. May someone clarify this point for me? Moreover, I rewrote the sentence. May anyone check whether my modification makes the sentence correct?

The modified sentence:

1.) It is apparent that the errors originate outside the model.
2.) It is apparent that the errors originate from the outside of the model.

Any help are appreciated!

UTC +8:00 12/13/2013 4:05 PM

Follow-up question:

So double preposition is not incorrect. But in this example, it seems redundant to use "from outside". Like my 1st alternative, just "outside" is enough to express all the meaning. Should we avoid double preposition in this case? Or does it express some specific meaning that I have not understood yet?

  • 1
    Who told you double preposition is not allowed in the English Grammar? That's complete nonsense - there's nothing wrong with errors originating from outside the model (or indeed voices from beyond the grave. Your rephrased version #2 is cumbersome, and introduces unhelpful associations with the outer surface of the physical boundary of something. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 12 '13 at 3:17
  • So how to determine whether a double preposition is correct? Is it like idiom? – user2720402 Dec 12 '13 at 3:22
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    I wouldn't call it idiomatic so much as context-dependent. It often happens with phrasal verbs: I'll call her up on the walkie-talkie, or I'll look it up in the newspaper, e.g. ("call up" and "look up" are phrasal verbs, so those aren't really dual prepositions). The original sentence is fine; originate from functions as a single unit, and outside the model is a place where errors can originate from. – J.R. Dec 12 '13 at 10:35
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I don't recognise the idea that there might be something wrong with "double prepositions" in English. Obviously it's not true in general, but I can't even guess why anyone would think it true in any context.

For the specific usage OP asks about, it's just a matter of whether we normally speak of things originating somewhere, or originating from somewhere. As this NGram shows, we actually use the first form 2-3 times more often, but there's nothing wrong with the second in originate from outside.

That NGram also shows how rarely we use OP's suggested originate from the outside. What this doesn't tell you is that the outside would be extremely unlikely in OP's exact context, because when we include the article before outside, we're normally referring to the outer surface (of a container, for example).

  • But I wonder if it is redundant to use double preposition at most of the case. As you can see, modified sentence 1 can express the same thing by using one preposition. Moreover, some double preposition is obviously wrong, for example, "The apple is in on the table.". Are there any rule to determine whether a double preposition is correct? – user2720402 Dec 12 '13 at 6:29
  • @user2720402: To repeat - your entire concept of double prepositions being "wrong" seems unhelpful to me. There's nothing inherently wrong with "The apple is in on the table". I really think it would be better for you to forget you ever heard of this "rule", since it doesn't seem to reflect any aspect of English I know about. Besides which, it's causing you to reject valid constructions and invent your own "unlikely" alternatives, so it's actually more of a hindrance than a help. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 12 '13 at 12:36
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    @Jan: It just means the location of the apple can be described as both in [there] (i.e. - somewhere that the speaker is "outside" of), and on [the table] (i.e. - the table is underneath the apple, holding it up above the floor). In practice that particular sequence might not be said very often, but there's nothing in the "rules of grammar" saying you can't string together multiple prepositions of place... – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 13 '13 at 16:43
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    ...if you want a different example, here are plenty of written instances (with three consecutive prepositions) of "up above in the" – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 13 '13 at 16:45
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    ...but I don't have a huge problem with It's in on the table (where in implies in there or indoors, for example). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 23 '17 at 14:38
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It is apparent that the errors originate from outside the model.

This is a perfectly valid sentence.

Contrary to the traditional grammar, according to the modern grammar a preposition can take a wide range of grammatical structures as complement. For example:

1. It hasn't been [until recently] that they have had to put on their big boy pants and actually go after him. [AdvP as complement]

2. [From behind the cloud] appeared the moon.* [PP as complement]

3. Please drop the garbage [into the dustbin]. [NP as complement]

4. They took me [for dead]. [AdjP as complement]

5. They are the experts [on whether their lives are worth living]. [Embedded interrogative clause as complement]

6. He left [before the meeting ended]. [Clause as complement]

Though not all prepositions can license all the grammatical structures listed above. For example the preposition "from" can't take any AdvP, but another preposition — "until" — can.

* [Traditional grammar will call it the occurrence of double preposition. According to the traditional grammar a noun or a noun phrase can sit in the complement position of a preposition. But what about until recently? I have grown up reading traditional grammar, but I haven't found any satisfactory explanation for until recently. So I readily accepted the explanation of Modern Grammar.]

So in your quoted sentence from outside the model is a PP, where from is the head preposition, and it takes another PP — outside the model — as complement. In outside the model, the head preposition is outside, and the complement is a NP — the model.

Why is outside in outside the model not a noun?

There are examples of nouns that can act like an adjective as in ice cream etc; they are known as noun adjuncts. In the order of adjectives such adjectives sit exactly before the head noun. In the NP structure the order is Determiner + Adjective + head noun. No other ordering is possible. In outside the model, if we consider outside as noun, the structure is incorrect as the central determiner — the — is placed in the middle of that NP structure.

Why is outside in outside the model not an adjective?

Consider the following sentence:

Unaware of the consequences, John made this decision.

Here unaware the consequence is an AdjP, and it predicates the noun — John. As it's an AdjP it needs an NP to predicate upon. Hence the following sentence is incorrect:

!Unaware of the consequence, there was the decisions that was made. (INCORRECT)

Now see this:

Outside the model, there is no existence of the theory.

This makes a valid sentence, and the phrase outside the model does not need an NP to predicate on. So it's clear that it's not an AdjP. In your sentence also it is not hinged to any NP.

Why is outside in outside the model not an adverb, but a preposition?

outside here takes NP as complement, and that confirms that it's not an adverb, but a preposition.

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I might be wrong about this, but that outside in "It is apparent that the errors originate from outside the model," makes me read it as a noun, i.e.

Where does those errors originate from?
It is apparent that the errors originate from (outside the model).

Aside from being a preposition, outside can be an adjective, an adverb, and a noun.

In some occasions, we cannot omit from before outside. For example, imagine some two workers gossiping about a new guy who moved to their branch a few days ago.

Where did he come from? (He is so hot!)
You don't know? He came from outside (of our company).

Obviously, without that from, the meaning will be totally different.

  • I don't think the word "outside" in the original sentence acts as a noun. It's strange. Can anyone confirm this? – user2720402 Dec 15 '13 at 9:27
  • I think we can interpret it both way. I didn't think of it as a noun until I saw your ... from the outside of the model. – Damkerng T. Dec 15 '13 at 9:30
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It's not illegal to have double prepositions in English.

The reason the sentence makes sense is that outside the model is a preposition phrase which is acting as a noun. It would make perfect sense to say, for example, It is apparent that the errors originate from the kitchen. Here the noun is outside the model instead of the kitchen.

I will mention that stylistically many would argue that it is more concise to simply say outside. But grammatically it is definitely not incorrect.

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  • The cat came out from under the bed.

English has no problem with a double preposition like "from under" and similar combinations. They are just shortenings as in

  • The cat came out from (her place/a place) under the bed.

Similar: He jumped out from behind a dustbin.

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