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I've always had difficulty ascertaining the way to approach structuring a particular type of sentence re: the situation in the question title.

There are probably all sorts of ways to restructure this particular example in such a way so as to avoid the issue entirely, but unless that is, in fact, the general rule of thumb in these types of situations, I want to make sure we focus on the specific concept of dealing with two prepositions of this type rather than just dealing with the no doubt poor example. As follows:

"...the value of which, I might add, humans are completely delusional about."

What I want is to stick that "about" somewhere that is not the end of the sentence. As I have done for "of", I know we often use "which" to make sure that our prepositions don't end up at the end of our sentences.

In the above example, if it was "the thing" that humans were delusional about, it would be easy to just end it with "[the thing], about which humans are delusional." But instead, it's "the value OF the thing" about which humans are delusional. So if I wanted to structure the sentence more or less like I've done, coming at the end of a larger monologue, as sort of an afterthought, I'm not sure how to squeeze the "about which" in there with the "of which" that's already there.

For instance, could I double use the same "which" somehow? Or must I slide a second "which" in there to use with the "about"; if so, in what order should it go, exactly?

Note: I realize that with this example, I could easily just add the words "is something", so as to say:

"...the value of which, I might add, is something about which humans are delusional."

But again, I want to focus on dealing with this concept in all contexts, rather than avoiding it here just because it happens to be easy. (Also, even that sounds a bit repetitive to my ear, what with the two "which"s so close to each other. The "I might add" is really there to try to add some separation but it isn't all that effective.)

This has been on my mind before more than once, and, if I recall correctly, I'm pretty sure I once heard Frasier Crane solve this for me with some fancypants word magic in exactly such a situation, and it sounded great. I want to say he somehow doubled down on a single "which"; something like "of about which". The problem is that that doesn't really seem right to my ear when I try it now, but I can't for the life of me remember or figure out how else he might have done it.

Thanks in advance to anyone who will help scratch this itch.

  • The linked answer seems to be pages of people arguing over the validity of the concept of ending sentences with prepositions. Just to be clear, I'm not asking whether or not it's okay to end sentences with prepositions. I'm saying that if we first assume that that's what we want, is there then a commonly accepted way to deal with two prepositions that are close together? i.e.: Is "of about which" considered a grammatically correct phrase which correctly modifies the...er...let's say "associated components" (since I lack the vernacular to accurately describe all parts of a sentence)? – Swerve Jan 17 at 2:37
  • Oh, ok; thanks. Ftr you just changed your comment after I submitted mine, so my last comment was in response to your first one. – Swerve Jan 17 at 2:39
  • I've moved my comments into an answer, and unlinked the duplicate. – tchrist Jan 17 at 2:44
  • Awesome; thanks. I swear I've long been on the side of scoffing at the superiority complex of the overly pedantic. The purpose of communication is exactly that: communication. That being said, linguistic style often has the same allure in its weilding that other art may be more known for. Thus, depending on mood/context/company/etc, it's nice to have all the tools in the toolbox in case you feel like using them. Also, when Frasier Crane said it, it sounded beautiful. I just can't deny that. I WON'T! (Pied piping is a great name for it, too. Thanks for the info.) – Swerve Jan 17 at 2:46
  • I've shortened the text, it was a bit waffly. If you dislike the intrusion, and you're perfectly entitled to feel so, you can rollback the edit. – Mari-Lou A Jan 17 at 19:28
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The trick to combining them is to use whose for one:

This is a proposition about whose validity generation upon generation has argued.

That’s likely the “double word-magic” you're looking for, combining a validity of with an argue about leaving behind neither of nor about to dangle off the end. So in your own example you’d write:

...about whose value, I might add, people are completely delusional.

It’s silly at best and pure nonsense at worst. Actual linguists know better; they call it pied piping.

  • After some thought, I don't believe "whose" is what I was thinking of. It's definitely an elegant solution that does combine the two problem words, but I feel like the "double word magic" I had referenced was something different. I can't be sure, but I distinctly recall hearing the two prepositions still present but woven together (instead of replaced). I want to say that maybe it really was "of about which", or something of that nature, but that just sounds so wrong to me at the moment, whereas it sounded quite nice to my ear at the time. Maybe it only works with a pretentious accent. – Swerve Jan 17 at 3:05
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Avoiding sentence-final “about” in your example is actually pretty straightforward: “...about the value of which, I might add, humans are completely delusional.”

When “pied-piping” a larger phrase that contains a wh-word, you just include all the words in the phrase in their usual order; what moves (to the start of the clause) is the entire phrase. “about the value of [x]” is a prepositional phrase headed by the preposition “about”.

  • Ah, okay. Way more straightforward and less magical than what I was envisioning. I may have been exaggerating a bit with all the "magical" talk, but I really was thinking that it had sounded more "woven" and less "stacked". That being said, this is probably what I was looking for. One "which", two (or more) prepositions, stacked rather than woven, magically or otherwise. Just another in a long line of cases in which my imagination was far better than the truth. Dammit. Er...I mean thanks. – Swerve Jan 17 at 3:35
  • Just for the sake of curiosity, how might we stack one more nuance on here? For instance, what if: the value OF [the thing] is dependent UPON [the stuff], and that dependence is what we are delusional ABOUT. Then we have: "...about the dependence of the value upon the stuff of which humans are completely delusional." That seems...wrong, actually, but it's too easy to get lost in, so I can't quite work it out. Also, what if it was still "the value" which we were delusional about, but we still wanted to include the point that it is dependent upon the stuff? That seems harder to accomplish. – Swerve Jan 17 at 4:07
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In my most recent conversation with a popular linguist, the use of ending a sentence in a prepositional phrase is no longer considered wrong, and likely never was.

  • And I agree with that stance. However, there are specific occasions where my aesthetic sensibilities prefer that I do so anyway. For instance, common conversational turns of phrase, such as "that is exactly what I was thinking of/about!" sound fine to me. But I do often run into sentences, especially more nuanced/verbose ones, where it sounds a bit unwieldy to me to finish off with a preposition. I'm picky like that, though. I've edited every comment on this page more than once. Indeed, the only reason I stopped at all is because the limit for editing comments is only 5 mins! – Swerve Jan 17 at 4:21
  • I agree with you, and because of tradition has taught us. If I aim to make a speech I will do as has been traditional, or if phrasing in the voice of yesteryear, in writing creatively. So we are at our desires, free to exploit or own wishes. – user332168 Jan 17 at 4:26

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