7

Where's the charger? It's not plugged in in the usual place.

Where's the charger? It's not plugged in the usual place.

I'm a native English speaker, but I've realised I'm not sure which of the above sentences are correct. Should you swap the "in" part of the phrasal verb "plug in" for the preposition in, or is it correct to have two "ins"?

And yes, I know there are less awkward ways of phrasing this, but I'm curious as to what the prescriptive rule is.

14

In English, it's not incorrect to have two consecutive repeated words in a sentence, and one place you'll encounter that is a phrasal verb followed by a preposition.

For example:

Nevertheless, other shows went on on the fatal day.
(H.L. Mencken, On Politics)

They scuttled the vessel off the harbour's mouth, and came in in the boat.
(J.L. Stokes, Discoveries in Australia)

However, sometimes the resulting wording reads a little awkwardly, so an author might try to rephrase the sentence to skirt the problem. Sometimes a comma might help improve readability:

She's got enough of her own to deal with, with the doings of her soddish husband and three rumbustious kids.
(L. Glaister, Limestone and Clay)

  • 5
    A few more extreme examples, "When the award was announced for the most rose rose, Rose rose to accept it." (color, flower, name, verb). "[regarding a sign reading 'Click and Clack'] The spaces between 'Click' and 'and' and 'and' and 'Clack' is not the same width." And then the wikipedia article worthy "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo". Yes, the last one is artificial and no, English speakers can't parse it either. – Draco18s Jun 24 at 17:01
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    @Draco18s "John, where Mary had had 'had', had had 'had had'; 'had had' had had the teacher's approval." Most of the difficulty in parsing the buffalo is that the use of "buffalo" as a verb in English is so rare that most people probably don't even know it exists, and most people who do know it exists, know that only because of that sentence. – David Richerby Jun 24 at 17:03
  • Yep, I had that one in my head too, but I didn't have room for it in my comment, and even now, twenty years after I first heard it, I still have no idea what it actually says. (And you're not wrong about the buffalo). – Draco18s Jun 24 at 17:06
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    @Draco - The context for the "had had" sentence is a multiple choice grammar question with three choices: (a) had; (b) has had; (c) had had. The sentence says that Mary picked (a), John picked (c), and (c) was the correct answer. – J.R. Jun 24 at 17:21
  • 1
    @J.R. Twenty years and finally it's explained. :D – Draco18s Jun 24 at 17:32

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