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I'm studying English pronouns and my book says that the sentence "the way in which" is incorrect and I have to use, instead, only "the way". Is it true? And if so, why?

Here are some sentences:

1) That's the way in which the world goes round.

2) That's the way in which I like it.

3) Now we'll consider the two ways in which aircraft can fly.

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Really need a bit more context... –  Tim Aug 30 at 20:15
It's fair to say that in which is usually/always superfluous in such contexts, but the idea that it's therefore "incorrect" is just ludicrous. OP should probably bin whatever book he got this from - it's just opinionated pedantry, not really helpful if you want to know how native speakers actually use English (i.e. - we include lots of "unnecessary" words, all the time). –  FumbleFingers Aug 30 at 20:35
With your examples, I'd say that 'That's the way in which I like it' sounds outlandish, and I'd advise very strongly against it. 'That's the way in which the world goes round' sounds starchy, and non-idiomatic: I wouldn't use it myself. 'Now we'll consider the two ways in which aircraft can fly' sounds the better option, slightly formal and distancing the comical directional reading. –  Edwin Ashworth Aug 30 at 20:40
The point underlying Edwin's objections is that "That's the way in which I like it" and "That's the way in which the world goes round" are unidiomatic/incorrect because "the way in which..." means "the mechanism or phenomenon by means of which [something occurs or is done]". Clearly, for your query sentences this is only applicable to "Now we'll consider the two ways in which aircraft can fly". That being said, on the face of it, whoever issued the proscription against "the way in which" is incorrect because they have failed to acknowledge this valid use of the expression. –  Erik Kowal Aug 30 at 21:21
This is a paradigmatic 'baby rule', like "never talk to strangers": a rule you teach beginners to prevent some mistake they're very likely to make, but which can be discarded when they know enough to recognize the boundaries of the rule's relevance. –  StoneyB Aug 30 at 21:57

1 Answer 1

The Corpus of Contemporary American English has 2151 cites for "the way in which" and the British National Corpus has 2574. For "the ways in which", the figures are 2127 and 788. To put that into perspective, both corpora combined barely have 200 cites for "black car".

This goes to show that "the way(s) in which" is not only perfectly grammatical and idiomatic, but also extremely common. So the rule from your book is complete and utter nonsense.

Of course there will always be particular situations in which the phrase is not idiomatic, or even ungrammatical, but then again the same applies to "black car". That is something that has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. As several commenters have pointed out already, the first two of your three example sentences indeed do not work. But the third one actually does. The difference being that in the former two, "the way" is equivalent to "how", while in the last one, "the two ways" refers to two actual mechanisms.

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