I am currently in the process of learning English and I encountered some grammatical structure I am not completely comfortable with, so I would be interested to have more information about these. Here are a few examples:

  1. The friend with whom I went on holiday. / The friend I went on holiday with.
  2. The subject about which we argued. / The subject we argued about.
  3. The house in which I was born. / The house I was born in.

All the native speakers I have met here (I live in England) use almost exclusively the second version of each sentence in everyday life, i.e. the ones with the preposition at the end of the sentence. However, being a French speaker, the first version is much more natural for me to use. Therefore, I would be interested to learn more about the differences between these two structures, i.e is there grammatical rules formalizing the version with the preposition at the end ? Is there one more correct than the other and would I sound odd to natives if I use the first version ?

Edit note:

Please note the following aspects of the question, which make it both useful for readers and also very different from the linked to one:

  • I would be interested to learn more about the differences between these two structure
  • Would I sound odd to natives if I use the first version?
  • Does this answer your question? Is ending a sentence with a preposition acceptable? See also Sentence that finishes with prepositions. Mostly, the "rule" about not ending an English sentence with a preposition only exists so people like Churchill can poke fun at it with This is the sort of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put. Commented Mar 24 at 11:56
  • ...but I will say it took me a while to get my head around the relatively new usage "We're going to the cinema. Do you want to come with?" Commented Mar 24 at 12:02
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore.: You make a good case. On top of which in retrospect I was careless to vtc in the first place. I just glanced at the linked question to see I'd upvoted the top-rated answer from sorely-missed StoneyB, so I thought that was good enough. But checking more carefully, I see I downvoted a couple of the "tied-for-second-place" answers (including the one the witless OP actually accepted!). And although there's certainly nothing wrong with StoneyB's answer, I'm in no doubt now that yours is much better in terms of simple advice to any [early] learner, not just this OP! Commented Mar 25 at 22:16
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    btw - I already upvoted your answer around the same time as my vtc. Just on the basis of the final paragraph - pure KISS! Commented Mar 25 at 22:39
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    @FumbleFingers Yes, the venerable and inimitable StoneyB. I'd like to know he's ok, whatever he's doing. Been looking out for northern lights, but no joy yet. Thanks for the upvote, FF! Commented Mar 25 at 23:06

1 Answer 1

  1. The friend [with whom I went on holiday]. / The friend [I went on holiday with].
  2. The subject [about which we argued]. / The subject [we argued about].
  3. The house [in which I was born]. / The house [I was born in].

These are all noun phrases with relative clauses. All the relative clauses in (1-3) are perfectly grammatical. Both the noun phrases in each example mean exactly the same thing.

However, the ones that come first are very formal in modern English. They are good to use in serious, formal essays. The second ones are suitable both in normal everyday conversation and also in serious, formal essays.

If you are a non-native speaker, people will probably not mind if you use the first type instead of the second during normal conversation or in informal letters or emails and so forth.

On the other hand, if you are still trying to improve your English, if you are trying to develop a feeling for the language, it would be a good idea to try and use a suitable level of formality when you are using your English.

It is a good thing to understand that if you use the second type, your language will always be appropriate, and that if you always use the first type, you will sometimes sound odd or overly formal.


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