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I corrected the student, saying that he should write "How much water do you use to take a bath?" because his sentence seemed unnatural to me. Do you consider it correct? Would you use it?

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As a native speaker, it sounds perfect to me. As pointed out below, there are some very minor issues, but if I saw the sentence with no context I wouldn't think anything of it. –  Reid May 30 '11 at 23:25
    
In fact, I ended up telling my student I would check if his sentence (written) could be accepted or not. However, I must say that I didn't expect such diferent perceptions of it. Some consider it completely fine, others a little odd. My doubt has little to do with the position of the preposition (on which a few insist), but a lot more with semantycs. –  Maria C. May 31 '11 at 0:06
    
I'm one that finds it grammatical but odd, because of the choice of preposition. –  Colin Fine May 31 '11 at 14:57
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5 Answers

The question in your post is correct: “How much water do you use to take a bath?” You could also say “How much water do you use for a bath?”

The question in your title (“How much water do you take a bath with?”) does not sound good to me: you take a bath with bubbles, with a magazine, or with a dear friend, but not really “with water”.

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More or less what I was about to say, rather better than I was about to say it. –  Brian Hooper May 30 '11 at 17:18
    
I must say I am a bit confused. I am not a native speaker. I asked a colleague of mine and he agreed with the correction I made. I wanted to be sure, so I asked someone else, who I consider to be a native speaker (he is from Sierra Leone and has several studies on English language) and he told me he considered the student's answer to be perfectly correct and natural... I wanted to check it and that's how I got here. –  Maria C. May 30 '11 at 17:41
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The only grammatical issue with the original is the preposition at the end of the sentence. Objecting to this is (as Churchill probably didn't say) "the kind of pedantry up with which I will not put". –  DJClayworth May 30 '11 at 18:41
    
@DJClayworth Churchill may have been very witty. I just don't understand why you have brought up his comment. Was it to make the discussion more interesting or to mock my question? –  Maria C. May 30 '11 at 19:16
    
I'd say that you don't take a bath with water but in water, but "How much water do you take a bath in?" although better, still doesn't sound quite right. The suggested fix is much better. –  Peter Shor May 30 '11 at 19:41
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I think your student's formulation is grammatically correct. Some people find ending on a preposition to be stylistically infelicitous; the use of "with" refers to an item (the water) that came earlier in the sentence, which also makes it a little awkward. Perhaps that tweaked your sensibilities.

There is also a connotative issue - in this context one bathes with someone or something in addition to the bath. Obviously, because the object is water, one understands that the water is constitutive of the bath, but still.

"How much water do you use to take a bath?" is perhaps preferable because the object comes first (and that is what the question), AND it lacks the anaphoric structure of your student's sentence, AND it lacks the slightly odd connotations of "with" in this context.

Edit: I should add that I probably wouldn't have picked the student up on this. The student's usage isn't especially jarring to my ears, and if anything sounds more natural to me in speech than your formulation. A more natural phrasing in speech would be rather shorter, such as "How much water do you use for a bath"? I would also have no problem with "How much water do you bathe with" in speech, and in writing the only issue is the connotation of "with" in this context.

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I love how you mention bathing with someone before something. ;) –  Jon Purdy May 30 '11 at 18:24
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I would suggest that "how much water do you take a bath in?" would be grammatically correct if you don't mind ending sentences with a preposition. I don't. Thinking about it in terms of the answer to the question can be helpful here. "I bathe in six inches of water" would be OK, "I bathe with six inches of water" wouldn't make sense.

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"How much water do you take bath in" is more weird. Would you say "i bathe with water and soap." or "i bathe in water and soap.". I would definitely say the first one. I won't say it's wrong though but it's more weird than "with", I think both prepositions can be used. –  Ankit May 31 '11 at 21:04
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Grammatically the sentence is correct although a bit awkward. It's a case of a sentence ending with preposition. Something like, On what did you step? or what did you step on? both are correct, although one with preposition on end is more natural. In your case it's other way round. "With how much water do you take a bath?" seems more natural than "how much water do you take a bath with?" I think it's good that you corrected your student but make sure to explain him the real reason.

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@christi "How much water do you take bath in" is more weird. Would you say "i bathe with water and soap." or "i bathe in water and soap.". I would definitely say the first one. I won't say it's wrong though but it's more weird than "with", I think both prepositions can be used. –  Ankit Jun 1 '11 at 17:07
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The sentence in your title is incorrect, because it ends with a preposition. You can fix the sentence by moving "with" in front of what it's referring to, but although it would be grammatically correct to say "With how much water do you take a bath?", I think that sounds more awkward than your alternative.

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You answer by saying simply that you cannot end a sentence with a preposition which is not correct. There are many cases of sentences ending with prepositions. The same thing happens with "with". So your answer doesn't give me any insight on why the student's sentence is incorrect. –  Maria C. May 30 '11 at 17:55
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english.stackexchange.com/q/16/3286 –  user3286 May 30 '11 at 18:01
    
I stand corrected, but I'll blame it on my mother, who still corrects me every time I'm on the phone with her and end a sentence with a preposition ;) –  Joel C May 30 '11 at 21:49
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