This is from an article about planets, some of which have no solid surfaces and are completely made of gas Planets which are gaseous

“No landing has been attempted on any of the gaseous Jovian planets primarily because there is no surface on which to land.”

The sentence "....there is no surface on which to land." has drawn my attention. It is structured in a relative clause "..on which..", for which I wonder the reason, why we don't use relative structures for similar sentences such as:

  • There is no place to go. (not "There is no place which to go.")
  • There is nothing to do. (not "There is nothing which to do.")
  • There is not any movie to watch. (not "There is not any movie which to watch")

In such sentences it seems that no relative clause is simply needed. So, why is it "...no surface on which to land" instead of "...no surface to land on."

  • 1
    Both versions are good English. The version with "which" sounds a bit stuffy and formal
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 6:40
  • 1
    Please note that in "There is no surface [to land on]", the bracketed element is also a relative clause, an infinitival relative clause to be precise.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 13:19

1 Answer 1


Sentences are sometimes written like this because of the old rule that you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition. "No surface on which to land" sounds fine, but sometimes it feels awkward or artificial to twist a sentence round so as to avoid ending with a preposition.

Your example sentences could be rewritten as:

There is no place to which we can go.

There is nothing that we can do.

There is not any movie [which] we can watch.

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