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I have asked this question in a linguistics forum, but as I was not getting answers I decided to ask it here.

A. Consider the phrase that is boldfaced in sentence (1):

  1. "It can live both in water and land."

Is the phrase grammatical as it is, with no preposition before "land"? Or should the phrase be "both in water and on land"?

B. Now consider the phrase that is boldfaced in sentence (2):

  1. "He is responsible for the loss and damage to the article."

In the phrase grammatical as it is, with no preposition after "loss"? Or should the phrase be "loss of and damage to"?

  • Where multiple conflicting prepositions are involved, we usually force consistency for the last one. – FumbleFingers Jul 3 '14 at 14:42
  • @FumbleFingers So "last" one means? – Man_From_India Jul 3 '14 at 14:46
  • It means idiomatically people are more likely to accept your (2) because the final preposition is valid (though pedants could argue that there's an implication the loss might be of something other than "the article"). They're less likely to accept (1) because the "deleted" preposition in doesn't really work with "land". But many if not most would simply rephrase sufficiently to avoid the conflict. – FumbleFingers Jul 3 '14 at 15:34
  • I've found a different rule for this. The preposition that should be kept is the one that is closest to the subject being described by the preposition, which would make both of these correct. – PixPrefect Jul 3 '14 at 16:24
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"It can live both in water and land."

A good trick I use for these types of situations is to imagine it says: "It can live both in water and in land" since that's basically what you're saying. For this you need to add "and on land." Otherwise you're saying it can live in land as well.

"He is responsible for the loss and damage to the article."

For this sentence, use the same trick I said for the previous sentence: "He is responsible for the loss to the article and damage to the article." The phrase "loss to the article" doesn't seem to have the meaning you were going for, so again I'd say add "loss of."

  • Very good answer. I think your trick is really great to help the asker in any generalized case. I would add to the specific example of the damaged article that you're not going to have to deal with loss and damage since loss makes damage unknowable and irrelevant. So I would suggest "He is responsible for any loss of or damage to the article." – Henry74 Jul 16 '14 at 20:57
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I would add on to land and any to damage since

He is responsible for any loss or damage to the article

is the most widely used version of this sentence

  • Why do you say it's most widely used with any? See Ngram. (I agree that any is better than the, but no article is more widely used.) – Peter Shor Jul 3 '14 at 14:46
  • @PeterShor How to decide which one is correct, especially when in first sentence we are using different different prepositions for different nouns and in case of second sentence we are using only one preposition for the nearer noun? – Man_From_India Jul 3 '14 at 14:51
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    @Man_From_India: I would say that strictly speaking, "loss of or damage to" is more correct, but "loss or damage to" is slightly more widely used. See Ngram. English speakers are careless with these types of thing. – Peter Shor Jul 3 '14 at 14:52
  • @PeterShor So in case of the first sentence "both in water and on land" is the correct version. But I think the "both in water and land" is widely used version. In that case I guess the preposition is agreeing to the nearer noun. Is it true? – Man_From_India Jul 3 '14 at 14:56
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    Actually, in water and on land is more widely used, but in water and land is also quite common. See Ngram. And if you only put in one preposition, you'd certainly want the preposition to agree with the nearer noun (or verb). – Peter Shor Jul 3 '14 at 14:57

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