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The original sentence:

"The movers are putting boxes on a truck and removing boxes from a truck."

To shorten the sentence, I want to combine these two actions:

"The movers are putting and removing boxes [ on / from ] the truck."

But I don't know whether to use the proposition associated with putting (on), or the preposition associated with removing (from).

AKA, which of these are right?

  • The movers are putting and removing boxes on the truck.
  • The movers are putting and removing boxes from the truck.
  • The movers are removing and putting boxes on the truck.
  • The movers are removing and putting boxes from the truck.

What are the rules in determining which preposition to use when combining other such sentences?

Clarification: I am not looking for different words for putting and removing. I am just trying to understand how I would combine both of those into one phrase when they use different prepositions 'towards' the object (truck).

  • The way this reads, I can't help but wonder what the movers are really accomplishing, and whether the truck has become an unnecessary middle-man. Are you trying to express that movers load the truck at one place, then the same movers unload it at a different place, using one word to describe the job(s) the movers do? – cobaltduck Jan 25 '16 at 21:34
  • @cobaltduck Honestly the sentence doesn't matter. Its just an example for another sentence with very similar makeup. I'm not looking to use a different word, just to learn the rules when combining two actions and their respective preposition. – Eddie Jan 25 '16 at 21:38
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    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/1035/… – Skooba Jan 25 '16 at 22:03
  • I would say "loading and unloading boxes on the truck", if I had to get it down as tight as possible. In this case the preposition "on" works reasonably well with either verb (though some may anguish that "attachment" of "on" shifts from "loading" to "boxes" when you cross "and"). – Hot Licks Jan 25 '16 at 22:50
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Parallelism is all about removing identical pieces of a sentence. Since your prepositions are not identical, you cannot remove them. You've already removed "the movers are" from the second part of the sentence, so the only thing you can simplify further is "a truck":

The movers are putting boxes on a truck and removing boxes from a truck.
 becomes
The movers are putting boxes on and removing boxes from a truck.

2

You could consider using on-loading and offloading as your action verbs. This would eliminate the need of a preposition.

The sentence would read, "The movers were on-loading and offloading the truck."

  • Hi Skooba, thanks for the suggestion. But I'm just looking for the rules for combining to actions and their associated prepositions. The actual meaning of the sentence is irrelevant, and I'm not really looking to use different words than "pulling" and "removing". – Eddie Jan 25 '16 at 21:40
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From your comments, I think what you are trying to do is not proper grammar.

Consider a case where the two propositions are complete opposites. For example (and just to brighten your day) think of penguins jumping back and forth between the sea and an ice floe. You can say

Some penguins were jumping off the ice and others were jumping on the ice.

You can also combine the objects of the prepositions and say

Some penguins were jumping on and off the ice.

However, there is no way to say

The penguins were jumping ______ the ice.

With any one word that means "on and off."

  • Hrmm. Interesting. I wonder if its better to use both verbs and prepositions.... The movers are removing and putting boxes from and on the truck. ? – Eddie Jan 25 '16 at 21:48
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    I would keep the prepositions nearer their verbs: The movers are removing boxes from and putting boxes on the truck. Notice that the direct objects (boxes) also stay with the verb, it is only the indirect object (truck) that can be simplified. – cobaltduck Jan 25 '16 at 21:57

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