I commonly come across sentences where I have to write the same word twice such as,

This is what I've been looking for for a long time.

and in these cases I just try to rewrite the sentence to avoid this.

  1. Is it OK to write sentences like these?
  2. How do you properly write these types of sentences?
  • 1
    what about inserting a comma between the two for(s)
    – bubble
    Jul 18, 2011 at 10:00
  • The sentences are not really improper in the first place. If you work on your writing, you will see other ways of writing the same sentences. Follow the ELL Q&A area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/41665/…
    – Kris
    Nov 3, 2012 at 15:34
  • You could write it "This is what I've been looking for² a long time", but it's not proper. Nov 3, 2012 at 17:10

3 Answers 3

  1. It is okay, but can be potentially confusing/surprising for some people.
  2. In this particular sentence, you can do "I've been looking for this for a long time" or "For a long time, this is what I've been looking for".

This sort of thing is surprisingly common in English.

I couldn't decide if I had had a good time.

This is what I've been looking for for a long time. (Your original example.)

There's nothing wrong with these sentences, and they aren't grammatically incorrect. However, some people do find them infelicitous or awkward-sounding, so a simple rewording often fixes the problem.

I couldn't decide whether I really had a good time.

I've been looking for this for a long time.

You don't have to do this, but you can if you think it sounds better.

  • 1
    It doesn't satisfy me, I found a huge difference between "I've been looking for this for a long time" and "This is what I've been looking for for a long time". maybe cause of the sentence structure: "this is exactly what ...".
    – user8568
    May 26, 2011 at 15:56
  • @Boob, how about "For a long time, this is what I've been looking for"? (See english.stackexchange.com/questions/27152/…) Of course, now that's ending a sentence with a preposition, but I assume no one here has any qualms with that... May 26, 2011 at 16:15
  • 1
    @Ben What's a preposition? :) May 26, 2011 at 16:33
  • @DustinDavis a thing you shouldn't end a sentence with! It's an old grammer idea that you should't end a sentence with a preposition because it normally describes something about the following word. But that is pretty much abandoned (like not starting a sentence with but)
    – mgb
    May 26, 2011 at 18:02
  • A fishery can can sardines, and may may flower as early as April, but to be honest most speakers would avoid such constructions - on grounds of elegance, not grammar. Jul 12, 2012 at 0:44

When i read a sentence like this, i put a comma between the 2 for's, in my head. I pause a little after the first for, or change the tone.

So why not do this for the reader? Write the sentence as "This is what I've been looking for, for a long a time".

Not that the sentence as it is, is grammatically incorrect. ;-)

  • Can we do this legally (ie. adding the comma in the sentence while writing like this)?
    – h8pathak
    Jul 5, 2017 at 17:57

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