I am unsure about the correct way of writing two parallel verbs and the objects (direct and indirect), when these objects are the same pronoun.

Which of these are correct?

Feel free to copy or contribute to it.

Feel free to copy it or contribute to it.
  • 2
    I slightly prefer the second version, but I wouldn't object to the first. The first can be misread as having "to it" modify the whole phrase "copy or contribute", but anyone who misread it in this way would soon realize the error and read it correctly. The second version avoids the danger of annoying readers in this way, and it costs only one short word. – Andreas Blass Nov 26 '15 at 17:48

Grammar tells us that verbs can also be used as nouns. It sounds a bit awkward using both verbs in parallel with the same complement "it". It's not grammatically wrong but just a matter of style, as we know the pronoun "it" should be replacing the same thing and doesn't have to be mentioned twice. As though, I'd suggest re-writing the sentence using one of the verbs as a noun, for example: Feel free to copy or make a contribution to it. Or Feel free to make a copy or contribute to it. It should sound more elegant and better English.


Adding another option to copying or contributing is illuminating:

"Feel free to copy or print or contribute to it."

Essentially, it's a list, so it would be possible to avoid the ambiguity that Andreas Blass' comment refers to by using commas:

"Feel free to copy, print, or contribute, to it."

This shows up the strangeness: copy and print both stand on their own, while contribute needs the 'to'. So this is better:

"Feel free to copy, print, or contribute to, it."

but in my mind is awkward, because the 'it' at the end seems rather lost. This could be resolved by defining 'it':

"Feel free to copy, print, or contribute to, the preceding text."

So, having explored options, I would go with the second option from the question as being the best:

"Feel free to copy it or contribute to it."

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