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General Writing and Grammar Help/use of "to whom" and "in which"

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Question
Dear Ted,

Can you please me to understand how the phrases “to whom” and “in which” are classified in the following sentences:
“The lady to whom you were talking is a doctor.”
“The translation of the word “casa” depends on the context in which it is located.

Are “to whom” and “in which” prepositional phrases?

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:


Can you please me to understand how the phrases “to whom” and “in which” are
classified in the following sentences:
“The lady to whom you were talking is a doctor.”
“The translation of the word “casa” depends on the context in which it is
located.

Are “to whom” and “in which” prepositional phrases?

*** There is much disagreement about classifying these two and their relatives.  I prefer calling them "prepositional phrases," which is exactly what they are. They problem is that they are very specialized and, as in your two sentences, they serve the purposes of relative pronouns.

I hope my explanation is not going to be unclear.

The "informal," but more-and-more acceptable phrasing is The lady you were talking TO is a doctor.  The translation of the word "casa" depends on the context it is LOCATED IN.

In both of these examples, you are ending with a preposition, which once was considered "taboo."

My belief is that the two are still prepositional phrases brought into special use as connectors to an independent clause.  It is wrong to say "The lady WHO you were talking to is a doctor," because you need the objective case WHOM.  Thus, you insert an adjectival prepositional phrase that works like a relative pronoun:  The lady TO WHOM you were talking is a doctor.

Since you should not end a sentence with a preposition, some rearranging is also involved for your second sentence.  "In which" is a prepositional phrase, but it is used as a relative pronoun connecting the dependent clause "in which it is located" to the main clause that ends with "context."

Both phrases are adjectival, because they modify the nouns "lady" and "context."

There is an interesting video here, if you have sound:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd1nQAjREAc

One of these URLS below should work:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_%28pronoun%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_(pronoun)

There are two humorous quotations from well-known people.

In 1990 William Safire suggested: "The best rule for dealing with who vs. whom is this: Whenever whom is required, recast the sentence. This keeps a huge section of the hard disk of your mind available for baseball averages

The second is Winston Churchill's convoluted way to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition:

Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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