It has just come to my attention that some consider ‘the reason why’ ungrammatical or otherwise unfortunate. David Crystal mentions it in his introduction to Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage, and this Oxford dictionary


says that

Many people object to the construction the reason why …, on the grounds that the subordinate clause should express a statement, using a that-clause, not imply a question with a why-clause: the reason (that) I decided not to phone rather than the reason why I decided not to phone. The reason why has been called a redundancy to be avoided, but it is a mild one, and idiomatic.

As far as I can see, these ‘grounds’ are a misunderstanding. ‘Why’ does not ‘imply a question’ any more than ‘where’ in ‘the place where he was born’. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to say

the reason for which

which is the same as

the reason wherefore

which is the same, I would think, as

the reason why

So what is the problem with ‘the reason why’? I can see neither illogic nor redundancy in the construction. It is, of course, possible and often preferable simply to say ‘the reason he ..’ and ‘the place he ..’, but surely not always, and the objection seems to be stronger than that. Besides, I would rather say these are cases of omitting the relative adverb than call the full formulations redundant. Is the objection simply -- as it appears to be -- based on a misunderstanding?

  • An expression that some careful speakers consider redundant is not the same as saying it is ungrammatical.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 7, 2019 at 11:39
  • @Mari-LouA, that is why I added ‘or otherwise unfortunate’. What interests me is the reason why careful speakers avoid this construction (if that is indeed the case).
    – Toothrot
    Apr 7, 2019 at 11:40
  • 2
    There's nothing wrong with it. I cannot tell you the reason why she got angry is perfectly grammatical. Here, "why" functions as an adjunct of reason.
    – BillJ
    Apr 7, 2019 at 11:45
  • 1
    @Toothrot: Bless your heart for not splitting an infinitive. If I had wanted to make a general statement about style, I would have, but in general, concise wins over verbose.
    – KarlG
    Apr 7, 2019 at 13:12
  • 1
    This is English! Someone will always find something to object to!
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 7, 2019 at 13:13


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