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The rows should be copied and pasted to the spreadsheet.

Does that sound right? If not, how could we reword the sentence? I ask because "to" applies to "paste" but not to "copy". The logical preposition to follow "copy" would be "from", but I don't see how it would fit in this sentence.

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6 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

This is a unique situation in my opinion, because "copy and paste" has attained the status of a compound verb in common parlance, so can be conjugated as such.

I would say that the sentence you have proposed is both clear and flowing, and would be accepted without comment by 99% of English speakers, whereas the "correct" alternatives would be a little clunky to read. Therefore I would stick with what you've got.

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+1 I usually write it "cut'n'paste", so I'm less tempted to conjugate the "cut" part. –  Brian Hooper Nov 24 '10 at 12:33
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I think to sounds right there, and into could work, too.

The rows should be copied and pasted into the spreadsheet.

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The sentence as you use it pertains a little different meaning than the alternatives.

The rows should be copied and pasted to the spreadsheet.

Here the spreadsheet is only the recipient of the copied data. It is perfectly OK to say

The rows should be copied.

The from is only necessary if a source is specified.

The rows should be copied from, then pasted to, the spreadsheet.

or

The rows should be copied from and pasted to the spreadsheet.

In these cases the spreadsheet is both source and target for the copied rows.

The rows should be copied then pasted to the spreadsheet.

And this gives a time dimension that is not relevant in your original sentence. Of course the copying will usually take place before the pasting (especially when you are talking about the clipboard in todays operating systems), but it might be that the copy-past is done intertwined, reading and writing blocks at the time, which is probably true when copying files. Will say, using then instead of and adds implementation or prozess specific knowledge that might not be necessary in the context.

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There is nothing wrong with

The rows should be copied and pasted to the spreadsheet.

You appear to be considering the two verbs to form a single action, and yet they are two separate operations that can be performed upon the subject (rows). First the rows are copied and then they are pasted. What they are copied from is not stated, but is likely to be understood. If you are really worried about clarity here you could write "The rows should be copied from the one spreadsheet and pasted to the other spreadsheet." But the meaning of your example is clear, and what is really happening there is an omission of extra (and probably unnecessary) syntax. The rows in question are probably referenced already and their identity understood by the addressee. If they are not, the specifier should be added.

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I think it should be:

The rows should be copied then pasted to the spreadsheet.

As it describes a series of actions pertaining to one object.

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You could say:

The rows should be copied from, then pasted to, the spreadsheet.

This way, the prepositions fit with their respective verbs, and the commas help keep them separate.

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