I've come across this sentence in a document.

Newly-built village houses refer to village houses for which a certificate of compliance is applied.

Is a "for" missing after "applied"?

Someone would say the "for" is put in front of "which", but doesn't that "for" go with the object in the main clause, meaning "for village houses"?

As "apply" has a different meaning from "apply from", I've been puzzled by this question a lot..

Thank you in advance.


You are partially right, it does need to say "apply for", but it needs another change as well. You'll notice that the sentence does contain the preposition "for". I think the writer thought they had a choice of preposition placement but has inadvertently confused the overall meaning.

In many other contexts the placement of the preposition would be fine. You often have a choice of placement of preposition, ie "for which..." or "which... for". But in this case it is necessary to say "applied for" to get the right meaning of the word 'applied', which can mean 'put to use', but here is supposed to mean 'make a request for'.

It would sound clumsy with two uses of "for", so I would instead say:

Newly-built village houses refer to village houses, which a certificate of compliance is applied for.

This sounds like a more informal construction, but is less confusing.

  • Can you turn the relative clause into an active voice sentence that contains only one for? I think not. See my answer for an example. – JavaLatte Jun 9 at 9:21
  • I remain unconvinced. What does your modified sentence mean? – JavaLatte Jun 9 at 9:46
  • 1
    Thanks a lot for your answer Astralbee. I have some queries on your modified sentence: (a) why can the "for" be omitted in this case? (b) if a comma is added, wouldn't it become a non-defining relative clause, which is not what the original sentence means? – juanolita Jun 10 at 6:58

You are absolutely right.

If you unravel the relative clause and change it to active voice, you get:

[somebody] applies for a certificate of compliance for the house.

Note that, as you rightly stated, the sentence definitely requires two fors- one relating to the house, and another relating to the certificate. Applying that to your sentence, you get:

Newly-built village houses refer to village houses for which a certificate of compliance is applied for.

That looks wrong, but it's correct if you consider the unravelled meaning of the relative clause. When the repetition of a word produces this kind of confusion, you can make it clearer by replacing one instance of a word. In this case, you could use the conjunction where with the meaning of "in this particular situation", instead of the relative pronoun:

Newly-built village houses refer to village houses where a certificate of compliance is applied for.

There is some flexibility in placement of a preposition when the relative pronoun is the object: in formal writing, you put it before the relative pronoun, and in informal writing or speech, you put it at the end of the clause. It is possible that the writer was confused by this- and I have to say that the sentence looks wrong if written correctly- and decided that there should be a preposition in only one of these locations.

  • Thank you for sparing your time JavaLatte. But if "where" is used, wouldn't it have the connotation that the content in the relative clause takes place in the house? – juanolita Jun 10 at 6:59
  • hmm... that interpretation would work if the new build village houses were places where people could apply for certificates of compliance, so either 1) certificate of compliance would have to be plural: "Newly-built village houses refer to village houses where certificates of compliance are applied for. ". or the verb would have to be can: "Newly-built village houses refer to village houses where a certificate of compliance can be applied for." – JavaLatte Jun 10 at 10:23

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