This issue arose in a recent lesson. In short, it centres on the difference between:

Where do you live?
I live in Tokyo. v In Tokyo. v Tokyo.


Which city do you live in?
I live in Tokyo? v ?In Tokyo. v Tokyo.

The issue is the answer 'In Tokyo', to the question 'Which city do you live in?'. There's no doubt about what it means, but my native speaker intuition says it's either not right or awkward (specifically, the 'in'), but in class I couldn't think of any reason why, and I haven't been able to find anything either way since. I can't recall hearing or reading it, and I wouldn't say or write it myself.

The issue isn't ending a question with a preposition. I would have the same issue with 'In which city do you live?' 'In Tokyo'. It also isn't with the preposition 'in'. I would have the same issue with 'Who did you vote for?' 'For Smith'.

So, is 'In Tokyo' a grammatical/acceptable response to 'Which city do you live in?'/'In which city do you live?'. Either way, is there an authoritative reference?


1 Answer 1


It's correct (as a shortening of "I live in Tokyo"), but redundant, and doesn't add any clarity, so it would probably be omitted.

It sounds odd because with the question "Which city do you live in" your brain assumes an answer "I live in" and then you add "in Tokyo", giving "I live in in Tokyo" (obviously ungrammatical). Your brain needs to do extra work to go back and mentally delete the "in".

So the simple correct answer to "Which city do you live in?" is "Tokyo". Answering "In Tokyo" is redundant and requires more cognitive effort to parse.

The further grammatical point is that English doesn't have "cases". In Latin, "In Tokyo" would be marked not only by the preposition, but also by the use of the ablative case. Even if the preposition was ellipsed, the word would still be in the ablative. With no cases in English, the meaning of "Tokyo" is understood from context, and particularly the context arising from the question. Learners from a language that has case markings may understand "Tokyo" to be the nominative case, and feel that the ablative should be marked in some way, such as by using a preposition. This is why Learners may feel compelled to insert "in" when it is not required in English.


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