Consider the following situation. I am waiting for someone who is getting through a list of my purchases and slowly wanders around a storage and gets my stuff to the counter piece by piece. I am asking that person about the progress:

What are you looking for for me right now?

Meaning to find out the item number that person is processing at the moment.

I do get that such a sentence is a little made up. What I ask is if it is ok to combine the same preposition from time to time? Should I avoid it altogether?

Other examples:

There is nobody you could speak to to my mind.

Would you check this out out of curiosity?

  • 5
    All three are normal in spoken English (though avoided in written English). Their sense is made clear by prosody.
    – Dan
    Oct 24, 2016 at 18:07
  • 1
    In written English I sometimes change the preposition just to avoid using the same word twice in a row. Just today I changed "Who should I speak to to fix this?" to "Who should I speak with to fix this?" In spoken English the repeated word isn't an issue.
    – Darryl
    Oct 24, 2016 at 18:17
  • If I had someone doing my shopping for me and I was on the phone with them asking about their progress, I might just ask, "Where are you on the list?" or "What are you looking for now?" or just, "Almost done?" and let them respond.
    – Jim
    Oct 25, 2016 at 2:08
  • @Jim I understand that I can rephrase the sentence. What I need to find out is if really should do that and put effort in evading the coupled prepositions. Oct 25, 2016 at 10:44
  • 1
    @Dan Thank you for the clarification. I take that as the answer. Oct 25, 2016 at 10:46

2 Answers 2


Using a word twice in a row isn’t always a no-no, but there’s always a more elegant way to revise a sentence in which you might initially be inclined to repeat a word immediately. I've mentioned two ways to avoid that by using your own examples.

One of the ways to do that is by replacing the prepositional phrase with a simple verb:

What are you finding for me right now?

Another way is to place the end of the sentence at the beginning:

Out of curiosity, could you check this out?

  • Thanks for the update but please keep in mind that I have no problem rephrasing the sentences. The question is not about looking for a way to rephrase them. Nov 7, 2016 at 15:34

If you're writing fiction and a character is speaking, sure. If you're writing something more formal, I'd rephrase to avoid the doubled preposition.

You might consider commas between the prepositions in your 2nd and 3rd examples.

  • Aren't commas something strictly regulated? I mean do I have to put commas there or is it arbitrary? Nov 7, 2016 at 15:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.