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1.People resented the underhanded way that he came to power.

  1. People resented the underhanded way in that he came to power.

  2. People resented the underhanded way in which he came to power.

  3. People resented the underhanded way which he came to power.

Which is right? The dictionary uses the first sentence, but I feel a little odd. I tried to rephrase the last part of the sentence into normal sequence:

He came to power in the underhanded way.

So the preposition "in" is fundamental to the sentence, but why does the first sentence omit it? In which circumstances can I omit the preposition? Can I omit it when using "which"?

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The in which example is the most grammatical of the ones you've chosen, but in my opinion,

People resented the underhanded way by which he came to power.

would be the most natural phrasing.

As for the other four examples:

People resented the underhanded way that he came to power.

is wrong.

People resented the underhanded way in that he came to power.

The expression in that cannot be used in this fashion; in that, rather, is used to specify a reason, e.g. People resented his underhanded rise to power in that he made many empty promises.

People resented the underhanded way in which he came to power.

Although it reads fine - and this may just be the American English in me speaking - I tend to think of in which as a connector introducing an optional clause that adds details about something, not something critical to understanding the sentence, e.g. That town square, the one in which he began his underhanded rise to power, is constantly vandalized.

People resented the underhanded way which he came to power.

is wrong.

1

All three sentences would probably get your point across when used verbally, but sentence 2 would be the best in written form. I think a correct example of the use of "in that" would be "people resented the way he came to power in that it was underhanded." The "in that" used here is like "since."

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  1. People resented the underhanded way that he came to power.

    1. People resented the underhanded way in that he came to power.

    2. People resented the underhanded way in which he came to power.

    3. People resented the underhanded way which he came to power.

Only the original and #2 are grammatically correct or standard.

If you use "which" in this way, it should be preceded by a preposition: "in" "by" or "through". Without a preposition, the sentence is incorrect. (Sorry, I'm not grammar-savvy enough to explain precisely why that is...).

"In that" has the opposite problem: 'that' should not follow a preposition as in your examples. The sentence could be switched around to read:

People were resentful, in that he came to power underhandedly.

...but this changes the meaning somewhat.

Some alternatives to the original sentence would be:

People resented the underhanded way he came to power.

People resented the underhanded way through which he came to power.

People resented the underhanded means by which he came to power.

Of all these options, the most natural would be "in which" or omit the relative pronouns all together and say "the underhanded way he came to power."

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