Is the following use of "with which to" correct?

Algae will deplete the supply of oxygen with which to sustain fish in the river.

I'd appreciate your help.


No, this sentence is not quite correct:

Algae will deplete the supply of oxygen with which to sustain fish in the river.

You would use "with which to" if the subject of your sentence (the algae) was using the object (oxygen) to do something, for example:

John has a supply of fish food with which to feed the fish.

This is correct because John will be feeding the fish. The above is essentially the same as saying:

John feeds the fish with his supply of fish food.

The "doing" doesn't always have to be by a named subject in your sentence, but "with which to" always implies action on somebody's part. However, in your sentence, the algae is actually hampering the use of the oxygen, not using it. In fact the oxygen in the river sustains the fish as an act of nature, not with any intent. For that reason I don't feel this expression is appropriate.

I think your sentence should read:

Algae will deplete the supply of oxygen which sustains fish in the river.

  • How about "There was no earth or plaque filter and no equipment with which to bottle the wine"?
    – Apollyon
    Mar 25 '19 at 9:58
  • @Apollyon That is correct also. It implies though that someone must intervene to bottle the wine - perhaps the first person.
    – Astralbee
    Mar 25 '19 at 10:01
  • How about "Mendip District Council loans the centres equipment with which to carry out the Flex-exercise For Fun' programme"?
    – Apollyon
    Mar 25 '19 at 10:03
  • So the implied subject of "with which to" does not have to coincide with the subject of the sentence?
    – Apollyon
    Mar 25 '19 at 10:04
  • 1
    @Apollyon if you "personified" an object or force in some way, yes. You could say "Algae depletes the oxygen, leaving the river with nothing with which to sustain the fish in it". This implies that the river in some way actively sustains the fish with oxygen.
    – Astralbee
    Mar 25 '19 at 10:16

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