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I've been asked to approve a bronze plaque reading "Capital improvements and renovation to this organ were made possible by...." The organ builders objected that "renovation to" is a barbarism. It seems to me that part of the problem is trying to use one preposition with two nouns, but in this case I'm not sure that the preposition works well with either of them.

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    What did the organ builders suggest?
    – JAM
    May 29, 2012 at 13:44
  • "Renovation of," but that (by itself) causes problems with "improvements," as implicitly noted by @Jay. May 29, 2012 at 16:15
  • "improvements to and renovation of this organ"
    – GEdgar
    Aug 1, 2023 at 16:51
  • "Renovation and improvements to", both because it avoids "to" next to "renovation", and because you normally renovate something before you improve it? "Capital improvements" is a very vague phrase that smacks of corporate bullshit, so if I was objecting to "barbarism" (which is itself a pissy term that could mean almost anything, and hence not something that someone who cares about language should use) I'd start there. (Unless you're modifying the tops of some columns, of course.)
    – Stuart F
    Aug 2, 2023 at 8:43

5 Answers 5

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Perfectly reasonable to make 'capital improvements to' something or to make 'renovation' to, which appears to be the sense here. However, 'renovation of' may be a more usual pattern. What about omitting 'to this organ'? If the plaque is stuck to the organ then it would seem unnecessary to mention 'to the organ' as it would still be clear what had been improved and renovated.

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I believe the correct phrasing is, "Captial improvements to and renovations of this organ" etc. Admittedly that sounds a bit stilted. The only alternative I see is serious rewording.

You proably do want to be careful about wording on a plaque because it's liable to be there for many many years. It's bad enough to make a mistake in speech and have people laugh at you. Do it on a plaque and people could be laughing at you for decades. :-)

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It's true that it should be renovation of and not *renovation to. However, improvement can also use of. I'm not sure whether it should be were or was. I prefer was.

Capital improvement and renovation of this organ was made possible by....

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  • Ooh, I like that better than my suggestion. :-)
    – Jay
    May 29, 2012 at 15:18
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This is a long dead thread, but I'd also chime in that you can't really make a capital improvement to an object, it's a term that only refers to real estate. Capital improvement projects can include refurbishing furnishing/fixed objects like an organ, but it would suffice to say "Renovation of this organ was made possible by..."

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  • Yes, this frame challenge answer seems best. Before answering 'preposition deletion may only occur when the same preposition is used with both nouns' one must make sure that the undeleted sentence would make sense. Aug 1, 2023 at 18:31
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My first thought was the organ builders should stick to their own business and stop worrying about the minutiae of grammar, but I must admit they do have a point.

The problem in OP's context is that "to" is the standard preposition to follow capital improvements, but renovation would normally be followed by "of". Two standard ways to deal with this are...

Explicitly write both ("capital improvements to and renovation of").

...or...

Omit the first preposition ("capital improvements and renovation of").

Personally, I think the first option seems wordy/pedantic/punctilious here, so I'd favour the second. But I'd also suggest singular improvement for consistency with renovation.

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