In my high school English class, I learned that "where", "when", "how" can be used to replace "something+preposition+which" depending on the context. But I sometimes see sentences like

New York is where I came from.

I asked my teacher, and she said it's equivalent to

New York is the place from which I came from.

I don't believe this is correct! But I'm not sure. Is this correct? Can "where" be used as "from which" in this context? If not, what is the appropriate replacement for the "where" in the first sentence?

  • 3
    You definitely don't need a double "from" in "from which I came from". It's either "which I came from" or "from which I came." Also note that "where" is not replaced by "from which", but by "the place from which" or "the place which... from" – Lucky Jul 24 '15 at 16:30
  • Thanks for the reply, @Lucky! But if "where" is replaced by "the place from which", why the double "from" unnecessary? If "the place from which" in "New York is the place from which I came" is replaced by "where", won't it be just "New York is where I came". Is that right? – RexYuan Jul 24 '15 at 17:28
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    Right, my mistake - "where from" is replaced by "the place from which" or "the place which... from" or better yet "where" refers to "the place which" - two "from" are not only unnecessary (another imprecision of mine, sorry about that) they are incorrect/ungrammatical. "There can be only one from" :-) – Lucky Jul 24 '15 at 17:58
  • @Lucky I'm a little confused. What's "where" replacing in this context? I now know that two "from" is ungrammatical, so is it replacing other preposition? – RexYuan Jul 24 '15 at 18:21
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    The things get complicated because you have one relative pronoun where replacing "the place" but "the place" is further defined by a relative clause "which I came from". The fact is that grammar is not math - it is difficult to simply say: X replaces Y. Each construction is assessed on it's own, not relative to the other. So you don't look which element replaces the other one, but rather you look for the function of elements in a sentence. If I could put this more competently I'd construct a full answer, but I'm sure that there are some linguistic terms I'm lacking for that. – Lucky Jul 24 '15 at 21:39

This is an interesting syntax, though I've heard it's falling out of favor.

The purpose is to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition (from, to, on, etc). So rather than say

"...the car I am sitting in."

you would say

"...the car in which I am sitting.".

This can be confusing, even for native speakers, so it is becoming less common. I had a linguistics professor who used to say

"A preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with."

The "preferred" syntax (according to an English professor) would be

"A preposition is a terrible thing with which to end a sentence"

which clearly sounds terrible.

Overall, you can impress people with your knowledge of this fancy syntax, but it often times will be more confusing than illuminating.

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