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Do I need "with" in this sentence? (Which one(s) are correct)?

  • What did you use to paint this WITH?
  • What did you use to paint this?
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  • Possible duplicate of Is it correct to end a sentence with a preposition?.
    – user3169
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 2:10
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    This is not about if a preposition can come at the end of a sentence. What I want to know is simply that with should come at the end of the sentence above. Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 2:15
  • The meaning is the same either way. The controversy mentioned is whether ending with a proposition is "correct" or not.
    – user3169
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 2:20
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    Actually, the problem isn't with the preposition, please see my answer below.
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 3:29

3 Answers 3

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The problem isn't really with the preposition (although there are many people who say that a sentence shouldn't be ended with one).

The real problem is with trying to combine use and with in the same sentence.

This might be clearer if we answer the questions:

A. What did you use to paint this WITH?

Which can be answered: I used a brush to paint this with.
Which is clearly not quite right.

B. What did you use to paint this?

This becomes: I used a brush to paint this.

If we drop the word use from sentence A then we get

C. What did you paint this with?

Which of course can be answered with: I painted this with a brush.

Sentence A most likely gets spoken by someone who decides to change their sentence structure halfway through speaking it and winds up with a combination of two sentences B + C.

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  • Question A can be answered: I used to paint this with water paint, but since that kept washing away I finally painted it with oil paint. Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 8:53
  • Marc van Leeuwen raises a great point - the question A could be using the 'úsed to' past form, in which case the question is grammatical.
    – user26486
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 13:00
  • Agreed. Though, I'm sure this wasn't the use case OP had in mind.
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 15:41
  • The speaker's inflection would be the main indicator of how they use 'used to.' If they were asking what object was utilized to do the painting, they would have likely put a slight emphasis the word paint "what did you use to paint this with?" On the other hand, asking about something that took place in the past would likely be said with this inflection: "What did you used to paint this with?" Hard to tell without hearing it, but it goes to show that inflection makes a big difference with the meaning of a sentence. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 18:01
  • @DannyBullis- ‘What did you used to paint this with” is ungrammatical in the context of OP’s question.
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 18:04
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Both sentences are OK, but it is not recommended to use a preposition at the end of a sentence. So the sentence B would be a better choice.

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  • The zombie rule you present here ("it is not recommended to use a preposition at the end of a sentence") is a red herring. There is an actual problem to be addressed here.
    – user230
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 7:29
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Would you say 'I used a toilet brush to paint this with?' or 'I used a toilet brush to paint this'?. I would say the first [EDIT: 'second' - thanks Marc] (theoretically!), because it's shorter and simpler. It's got nothing to do with having a preposition at the end of a sentence. An ever simpler statement is 'I painted this with a toilet brush', which has the equivalent questions 'What did you paint this with?'. If some people object to the preposition at the end (they shouldn't!), it is easy to reword it as 'With what did you paint this?'. The question 'With what did you use to paint this?' is possible but only with a difference meaning.

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  • Apart from the abuse of toilet brushes, your second sentence seems to wrongly compare the lengths of the quoted phrases. Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 8:49
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    I thought 'paint brush' was too unimaginative.
    – Sydney
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 10:06

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