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This is a tooltip in an application:

Identifies the site name to which the GL code belongs to.

Can I say that it is incorrect to use "to" twice here and we should remove 1 of them?

Other examples:

Identifies the vendor to which the port speed is associated with.
Provides the vendor to which the milestone is associated with.

(They are both tooltips, too)

The repetitions here are incorrect, aren't they? Please confirm.

  • 2
    Welcome to ELL! These are all incorrect, as you observe--probably hypercorrections by a native speaker. – StoneyB Feb 25 '14 at 11:26
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    Yes, in the first example either "to" should be removed. In the other two examples, "with"should be removed, or "to which" should be removed. – oerkelens Feb 25 '14 at 11:26
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    As explained by Abby T. Miller, traditional English rules (as taught in the school systems throughout a native English speaker's education) dictate that a sentence must never end with a preposition. In common colloquial usage however, it is extremely common for native speakers to ignore this rule. To end a sentence with the phrase, "identifies the vendor the port speed is associated with," is technically incorrect, but commonly accepted and understood in day-to-day speech. – Brian Lacy Feb 25 '14 at 15:36
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    That rule is a non-rule. It is not technically incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition. – snailboat Feb 25 '14 at 15:51
  • @Brian: You must be one of the very few people I've ever come across citing that "rule" in all seriousness. Before I was even born, Churchill was supposedly poking fun at it, and I've no recollection of ever hearing anyone citing it for any reason apart from to dismiss it. Are you really saying you were actually taught it? – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '14 at 17:10
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Yup - those prepositions are redundant. The short answer is that you're right and should follow oerkelens's advice.

Background in case you're curious:

One of the grammar rules that is drilled into the heads of many native speakers of American English in grade school is along the lines of: "IF YOU END A SENTENCE WITH A PREPOSITION, THE WORLD WILL EXPLODE AND ALL THE KITTENS WILL DIE". Many people learn the "to which" construction as a way to get around that.

  • "Identifies the vendor which the port speed is associated with." ENGLISH TEACHER SAYS NO!
  • "Identifies the vendor to which the port speed is associated." English teacher says yes!

But what happens in some cases is that the native speaker comes to sort of understand "to which" as its own relative pronoun, instead of a relative pronoun in a prepositional phrase. In that case, they perceive that their sentence still needs a preposition, so the "with" is tacked on at the end. That makes sense, because if you reorganized the sentence, you'd say "The milestone is associated with the vendor" - so "associated with" just kind of runs together nicely in the brain. It's understandable that the writer would want to tack on a "with" after "associated" since they appear together so frequently in other sentences.

This is the result of one of the longest and hardest-fought prescriptivism vs. descriptivism (PvD) battles in English. In my opinion what happens is this:

  • The prescriptivists rail so hard against ending a sentence with a preposition that...
  • ...regular speakers (who don't care about the PvD fight even a tiny bit) end up inventing something that makes sense to them, leaving...
    • ...the descriptivists scratching their heads about where on earth this came from, and...
    • ...people trying to learn English scratching their heads even harder about why everyone is writing incorrect sentences all the time.
  • How were you able to get a link to a comment? – user26486 Aug 11 '14 at 11:21
  • @mathh The timestamp next to a commenter's is a permalink to that comment. – hairboat Aug 11 '14 at 15:55
2

In your examples, which is a relative pronoun. It introduces a relative clause. And in English, a relative clause has a gap, a missing element. Let's look at an example:

​1. The box belongs to me.

This is a fairly simple sentence. The noun me is the object of the preposition to. Let's try turning that into a relative clause.

First, we replace me with a relative pronoun:

​2. the box belongs to who

(In modern English, we'd usually use who, but in very formal speech whom would be more appropriate. More on that later.)

Next, we move the relative pronoun to the front of the clause, leaving behind a gap:

​3. [ who the box belongs to ____ ]

Now we have a relative clause! We can use it as part of a larger sentence, if we like:

​4a. I'm the one [ who the box belongs to ____ ] .

In this case, we can optionally replace the relative pronoun who with that:

​4b. I'm the one [ that the box belongs to ____ ] .

And we can delete that from the sentence altogether:

​4c. I'm the one [ Ø the box belongs to ____ ] .

Sentences 4a-c are all fine. You can use any of them! But if you wanted to make the sentence more formal, you'd want to make two changes. First, we'd replace who with whom:

​5a. I'm the one [ whom the box belongs to ____ ] .

And second, we'd do something called pied-piping, in which we move the preposition to to the front of the relative clause:

​5b. I'm the one [ to whom the box belongs __  ____ ] .

In formal style, this is the proper phrasing. (Note that this sentence is not more correct—it is merely more formal. It's important not to confuse correctness with formality.)

You can use any of sentences 4a, 4b, 4c, or 5b:

​4a. I'm the one who the box belongs to.
​4b. I'm the one that the box belongs to.
​4c. I'm the one the box belongs to.
​5b. I'm the one to whom the box belongs. (formal)

But, and this is important, you cannot duplicate the preposition to. All you can do is move it! That means your examples are incorrect. Compare the following:

6a. Identifies the site name [ to which the GL code belongs __  ____ ].
6b. *Identifies the site name [ to which the GL code belongs to __  ____ ].

In formal style, sentence 6a is perfectly correct. The relative pronoun which has been fronted (as it must be), and the preposition to has followed it to the front of the clause (as is appropriate in formal style).

But in 6b, you've come up with an extra preposition! Where would this preposition come from? Well, if we undo the pied-piping, this is what we get:

6c. *Identifies the site name [ which the GL code belongs to to ____ ].

It sounds pretty silly with to to there, doesn't it? Since 6c is ungrammatical, the derived sentence 6b is ungrammatical as well.

So no, you cannot use those redundant prepositions.


In this answer, the * symbol indicates that a sentence is ungrammatical in standard English.

  • One-line summary: *The box belongs to to me. → *I am the one [ to whom the box belongs to ] – snailboat Mar 1 '14 at 2:51

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