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I don't think the verb "abolish" is used with any postposition but the way how its used in this quote really got me thinking about it once again.

"All experience has shown that mankind is more disposed to suffer - while evils are sufferable - than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

I know what abolish exactly mean but I can't really make any sense out of this when it's used with "to". So is the verb used slightly different in this context than its main meaning or there's other possible ways of usage "abolish" with postposition?

  • 5
    Abolish isn't being used with to in your example - "the forms to which they are accustomed" is what is being abolished. 'than right themselves by abolishing ice cream' would be the same structure. Also, it would be good to add where you found the quote. For more information about why see: meta.ell.stackexchange.com/q/1084 – ColleenV Jun 1 '16 at 16:12
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The object of the verb "abolish" is "forms". They are "abolishing the forms". The phrase "to which they are accustomed" says which "forms" we are talking about.

  • Do I wrongly associate "to" with "abolish". Instead, it has to be the part of phrase "accustomed to" ? than to right themselves by abolishing the forms which they are accustomed to." – Cavid Hummatov Jun 1 '16 at 20:12
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    Yes, that's the idea. This complicated structure is all in the service of never ending a sentence with a preposition ("to"). That was considered very tacky, 240 years ago when your example was written. Opinions differ today, but I think the "final preposition prohibition" is considerably weaker, now. That eighteenth-century Declaration itself is still revered, but its style sounds pretty stuffy in more than one spot. – jackr Jun 1 '16 at 20:33
  • What, no one says “to which” anymore? – Anton Sherwood Sep 8 '16 at 4:42
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In this example, "the forms to which they are accustomed" is a constituent, and you can figure that out by replacing the phrase you're wondering about with "it," and seeing that the sentence remains grammatical:

"... than to right themselves by abolishing it."

Another test is seeing if you can use it as the answer to a question. If you can, it is a constituent, like below.

What was abolished? The forms to which they are accustomed.

In contrast, you can't say,

What was abolished? to which they are accustomed


This might help you visualize the structure:

"... than to right themselves by [abolishing [the forms [to which they are accustomed.] ] ]"


This test wouldn't work if the "to" was related to the verb. For example, if I was "taking the money to the bank," I can't say

What was taken? the money to the bank

That might be understandable English, but it's bad.

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