Is this sentence grammatically correct?:

There is a table that has a book on it.

Can I say (or why can't I say if not?):

There is a table that has a book on.

  • The near-superimposition of these two Google Ngrams indicates that the inclusion of 'it' is the idiomatic choice, at least for 'table with books on' vs 'table with books on it'. And to my ear, 'table that has a book on.' sounds a lot less idiomatic than 'table with a book on.'. // Why? 'He has a black hat/coat on.' is perfectly idiomatic.... – Edwin Ashworth Oct 18 '17 at 15:35
  • So idiomaticity and logic, as usual, seem not to match up, at least on the surface. // Why can't you say "table that has a book on it."? Nobody's going to stop you (unless they have an interest in how you use the language), but you won't sound like the average native speaker. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 18 '17 at 15:38
  • @EdwinAshworth Problem is, it's one of those examples where there's no data to go on. When you actually click on "table with books on" to look at the examples, there's only three or four - and two of those don't have an "it". Alhtough, I would agree that an "it" is needed, of course. – Araucaria Oct 18 '17 at 16:23
  • @Araucaria This looks like a simple case of a stranded prep being ungrammatical. And see if you can spot the errors in JL's answer. – BillJ Oct 18 '17 at 19:14
  • There is a table [that has a book on it].

This is a grammatical sentence. The restrictive relative clause

  • [that has a book on it]

modifies its antecedent noun phrase a table, and contains two noun phrases (that, the subject relative pronoun, and it, the object of the preposition on) which both refer to a table.

This is grammatical because the clause is grammatical as a simple sentence

  • The table has a book on it.

The second sentence

  • *There is a table [that has a book on].

is ungrammatical (that's what the asterisk means) because the supposed relative clause

  • [that has a book on]

is not grammatical as a simple sentence

  • *The table has a book on.

and therefore can't be grammatical as a relative clause.

It's tempting to strand prepositions in relative clauses, like

  • The man put the book on a table; what color is the table that he put it on?

but you can only do that when the relative pronoun that (or which, or who, depending) is the object of the preposition. In

  • a table that has a book on it

the relative pronoun that is already the subject and can't be moved or deleted, so the it that's the object of on is not a relative pronoun and can't be deleted or moved either.

  • 1
    But 'He has a new coat on' is acceptable. Is 'have on' more unitary/cohesive in this case? – Edwin Ashworth Oct 18 '17 at 17:02
  • 1
    "The table had on a book" versus "I had on a winter coat"--"to have on" meaning "to be wearing" is possibly a phrasal verb. – Xanne Oct 19 '17 at 3:11

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