Who were you spoken <to by in> the street?

Akasaka

Senior Member
Japanese
Hello members,

Who were you spoken to by in the street?

This sentence has three consecutive prepositions. Is this grammatically correct?

Thanks in advance.
 
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  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    This sentence has three consecutive prepositions. Is this grammatically correct?

    There are no grammar rules about consecutive words of the same type.

    Who would want to say that clumsy passive stuff, when "Who spoke to you in the street?" is what any correctly programmed individual would say.

    In AE too, there is a strong preference for using active tense. Passive tense is allowed but usually avoided.

    But it is a good example sentence, for asking about several prepositions in a row.

    Who were you spoken to by in the street?

    Here the first preposition is part of a phrasal verb "spoken to", and the last is part of a prepositional clause of location "in the street". Only the middle one "by" is alone: it is part of the phrase "by whom", which is inverted in this sentence. That is how an AE speaker reads the sentence, so it isn't confusing:

    "Who
    were you [spoken to] by [in the street]?"
     

    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    Just don't tell me you can close your eyes and quickly say the sentence with all those prepositions in the right order, without pausing to think. :D
    Oh, I don't know. That isn't the only "right" order.
    What did you bring that book I don't like to be read to out of to up for?:D
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    What did you bring that book I don't like to be read to out of up for?

    Just don't tell me you can close your eyes and quickly say the sentence with all those prepositions in the right order, without pausing to think. :D

    If it was spoken English, there would be lots of information in the voice that told you the phrases and how they related. For example, a pause before "up for". In spoken English this phrase would stand out as separate from the sentence around it:

    "that book I don't like to be read to out of"
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Turn it around and you'll see why 'by' is necessary: By whom were you spoken to in the street?

    If we omit the 'by' in the OP sentence we would have 'Who were you spoken to in the street?' What does that mean? :confused:
     

    Akasaka

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    You can have five consecutive prepositions in of a sentence — even at the end.

    (SMALL CHILD TO HIS DADDY WHO BRINGS UPSTAIRS A BOOK HE DOESN'T LIKE TO HAVE READ TO HIM):

    'What did you bring that book I don't like to be read to out of up for?'

    Wow! I didn't imagine such a thing was possible.
     
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