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The sentence

We wish to verify that adding or removing an apple to the basket does not alter its color.

sounds wrong, because we should remove from instead of remove to.

But the sentence

We wish to verify that adding or removing an apple to or from the basket does not alter its color.

sounds complicated.. and lame. But I am not a native speaker.

Is one of the two above correct?
Is there another consensual formulation in this case?
Do I need to hard-rephrase all the sentence?

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  • 4
    Logically, it should be 'adding an apple to, or removing one from, the basket...', but I agree that that sounds over-complicated. If you have already established that the apples are in a basket, why not just say 'adding or removing an apple'? Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 17:30
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    does not alter its color is ambiguous. The color of the apple or basket? I would follow Kate's advice.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 19:46
  • It should be obvious that you are on the wrong site. Try English Language Learners.
    – David
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 19:50
  • We wish to verify that adding an apple to, or removing one from the basket does not alter its colour.
    – Ram Pillai
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 7:44
  • @Lambie You're right in this case. But I can guarantee that there is no ambiguity in my actual context (disclaimer: I was not actually writing about apples and basket X) Instead of color, just make sure to pick a property that just cannot refer to apples ;)
    – iago-lito
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 9:20

3 Answers 3

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Your second version is probably more formal, but I think most people just accept that it's too cumbersome to use both prepositions. The sentence sounds most natural to me if you use the preposition appropriate for the last verb.

We wish to verify that adding or removing an apple from the basket does not alter its color.

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  • I like how light this feels. I'll use this if the solution of @KateBunting turns out not to be possible. Thank you :)
    – iago-lito
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 9:17
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I would split your sentence in two separate pieces :

We wish to verify that adding an apple to the basket or removing one does not alter its color.

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  • Thank you for this useful rephrasing :)
    – iago-lito
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 9:16
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You should use a comma following a participial phrase that introduces a sentence:

We wish to verify that, adding or removing an apple from the basket does not alter its colour.

You want to verify that something you have already done - "adding or removing the apple", did not have an effect on the apple's colour.

We wish to verify [if], adding or removing an apple from the basket [will] alter its colour.

You want to check if a proposed course of action is likely to have an effect on the apple's colour.

The comma helps to avoid ambiguity, for instance:

The bear eats, shoots and leaves.

is a completely different [lunchtime homicide] event, compared with:

The bear eats shoots and leaves

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  • I disagree with those commas. You would do that if the commas were surrounding a prepositional phrase, e.g. "verify that, after adding or removing an apple, it doesn't change color"
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 1:05
  • None of this actually answers the question about the prepositions from and to.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 1:10
  • Well you are entitled to you opinion, but it is only that. Did you view the hyper link to Grammarly.com who seem to agree with me ? See also: istc.org.uk
    – NeilB
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 9:18
  • "We with to verify that" is not a participial phrase. Look at the examples at Grammarly, it's not similar.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 1:38

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