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Sentences like the following sound strange to me, and I somehow "feel" they are incorrect.

I will be in the room in 10 minutes.
I will go to New York to meet my friend.

Is it correct to use the same word multiple times in the same sentence? If not, what are the right sentences?

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    Why downvote? I am trying to learn. Anything wrong with asking a question if I do not understand? – user207 Jan 31 '13 at 6:24
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    @Parag: That can be a thorny issue. On the surface, there's nothing wrong with asking a question when you are trying to learn. On the other hand, basic answers to simple questions which can be readily found with a simple search can garner downvotes, because some folks will wonder why you didn't answer your own question with a little bit of research. (If you hover over a question's downvote button, you'll see a message about that.) As a general rule, it's considered good practice to include a sentence or two about where you tried to find an answer, and why you're still confused. – J.R. Jan 31 '13 at 9:02
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Neither of those sentences is incorrect, and I'd venture to say they do not even sound awkward.

Using the same word twice in a sentence – particularly when the word in question is a preposition – won't cause a native reader to blink twice.

There are even a few words in English that are used back-to-back once in a while, such as had and that:

The two had had an almost classic friendship. (D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow)

I never could make him understand that that was what civilized people ought to do (A. Huxley, Brave New World).

Common sense rules apply, though. A single word used too often in a sentence will eventually start to read awkwardly, depending on how many times the word is used, how close together those words are in the sentence, and what the meanings of those words are. The infamous "Buffalo sentence," for example, may be grammatically correct, but it's really just a novelty, and wouldn't be useful in any form of real communication.

Every once in a while, I'll read something that I've written, and think to myself, "That word sounds overused; I should find a synonym." For example, I'd likely change:

She lived in a big house with a big garage on the outskirts of a big city.

to:

She lived in a big house with a spacious garage on the outskirts of a major city.

However, word overuse is a style issue; there's nothing "incorrect" about using a word too many times in a sentence. Moreover, for prepositions, it's best to use the most appropriate preposition available, and using the same preposition twice – even in a short sentence – would not be considered bad practice. In fact, if used properly, a little bit of repetition can create a parallel structure that is easy to follow and almost poetic to read:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

There's no hard-and-fast rule; you simply need to use your best judgement.

  • "There's no hard-and-fast rule; you simply need to use your best judgement." - which includes recognizing that in AmE, "judgement" is oft-corrected by English teachers (like the one I had in High School) to "judgment". I don't actually care about that, but she did, so consequently it now looks like a misspelling to me. Use your best discernment. – HostileFork Sep 24 '14 at 19:46
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    Every American spelling bee I have ever participated in accepted "judgement" as a correct spelling. At the school level spelling bees, sometimes I had to challenge the teacher, but my challenges were upheld. Your English teacher should have known better. – Jasper Sep 25 '14 at 2:01
  • Whenever I type sentences like I want to check in in to source control the editor says there is a grammatical error. Is it really incorrect to repeat words like in in this case in such a context where it makes sense? – RBT Nov 17 '16 at 1:36
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    @RBT - That particular sentence looks wrong to me. But you can use in twice in a row, e.g.: I will check in in the morning. – J.R. Feb 9 '17 at 16:20
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Both sentences are correct and sound very natural to native speakers. It is not incorrect to use the same word multiple times.

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    Can you please broaden your answer, maybe site some references or explain why? – John Isaiah Carmona Jan 31 '13 at 8:07
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I thought I'd pitch in with something myself.

There are two super-groups of words in English: words that mostly form the semantics (i.e., meaning) of a sentence and words that mostly support the grammatical structure of the sentence. Words, such as in and to are essential in forming the grammatical structure of a sentence and at the same time, they carry meaning themselves. The latter (grammar words) usually have no matching synonyms and are very idiomatic in their usage.

Take your first sentence for instance, the first in, a preposition, indicates to the reader that a prepositional phrase is to follow (grammar) and that the action takes place within the confinement of something (meaning). The second in serves a similar grammatical purpose, but carries the meaning of a duration. Both are idiomatic, so there is no easy way to replace them. Grammar words are usually conjunctions, prepositions and sometimes adverbs.

The words that mostly carry meaning are usually nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. These words quite often have synonyms and can be replaced by their synonyms for stylistic reasons. J.R.'s answer deals with the style topic very well, so I am not going to repeat everything there.

So in order to answer your question - whether it's ok to use the same word multiple times in a sentence - you need to understand these two types of words first.

This holds true for many languages in fact.

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