Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Father: “It may not be exactly the car you want but..”
Daughter: “It’ll be rubbish, some old wreck that I’ll look totally stupid in.”
(BBC, The Archers, 2013-04-26 Friday, 8’55”~9’01”)

Does the ‘in’ make adverbial in the text, a supplementive as an adjective, or something else?

enter image description here
source: The Lexicogrammar of Adjectives: A Systemic Functional Approach to Lexis, p201)

share|improve this question
3  
It's just a preposition that's been stranded by relative clause formation. I'll look totally stupid in the wreck is the underlying clause before it becomes a relative clause modifying some old wreck. She could also have said in which I'll look totally stupid, but that falutes too high. –  John Lawler Apr 27 '13 at 1:03
add comment

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

In very formal traditional English, this sentence would be written:

It will be a terrible automobile, some old wreck in which I will look totally stupid.

Contemporary English disfavors using the formal prepositional phrase in which with its relative pronoun which: it replaces which with that and separates the preposition by putting it at the end of the sentence. Back in the day (18th-19th-20th centuries), grammarians and English teachers used to teach native Anglophones that it was incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition, but that wasn't something we could continue to believe in. Native speakers have always spoken sentences that end with prepositions. It's natural English syntax.

Something in which I will look totally stupid sounds stilted and awkward to the native Anglophone's ear. Something I'll look totally stupid in sounds normal. This is merely a prepositional phrase reordered so that the preposition is now a post-sentence element.

All prepositions are tossed into the trashcan (words we don't really know how to properly label in English, so we borrow the label from Latin) of adverbs. Just call it a "sentence-ending preposition", as is put in the famous sentence This is something up with which I will not put.

share|improve this answer
add comment

In heads a prepositional phrase constituting an adverbial of location within a relative clause headed by that:

I will look totally stupid in it >>> that I will look totally stupid in _

If the relative pronoun were that instead of which, the preposition could be 'pied-piped' instead of 'stranded':

in which I will look totally stupid

But this is not permitted with that.

Stranding a preposition in this manner was once frowned on by many stylists, but this prejudice is gradually disappearing. Stranding has always been common in colloquial registers (although recent corpus studies* suggest that it is not nearly so common as was once thought).

* Johansson and Geisler, "Pied Piping in Spoken English", in Renouf, Explorations in Corpus Linguistics, 1998; Hoffman, "Variable vs. categorical effects: Preposition pied piping and stranding in British English relative clauses", Journal of English Linguistics, 2005; Hoffman, Preposition Placement in English, 2011.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.