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Is there a grammatical mistake in this sentence?I am an English learner and now I have...

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cosmicrays | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 23, 2012 at 2:33 PM via web

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Is there a grammatical mistake in this sentence?

I am an English learner and now I have a question about this sentence:Austen set most of her fictions in the time which she lived.

I am not sure if this sentence is right. More specifically I'm not sure if I have put the preposition "in" in the right position?

Or should I say "Austen set most of her fictions in the time in which she lived"?

Or should I add/use other preposition?

I really confused and need some advices,Thank you!

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted May 23, 2012 at 3:41 PM (Answer #1)

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An added complication here is that you are using a verb phrase, sometimes called a "verb plus particle"--"lived in" is actually the predicate of the relative clause "which she lived in".  This confusion can be eliminated by going to the latinated word "resided" instead of "lived in." "when she resided" Another even simpler solution is "Austen set most of her fictions in her own times."   

 

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted May 24, 2012 at 5:46 PM (Answer #2)

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Two other comments that might help sort this out. (1) "In which" is equivalent to which, when, where and is a time expression in a wh-word clause. This means that "in which" is another option for beginning a relative/restrictive wh-clause.

(2) If you substitute "during" for "in," the confusion falls away: Austen set most of her fictions in the time during which she lived. It is clear that, in this case, "in" is functioning as a preposition meaning "during a period of time" (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English). When possible, it is well to choose the preposition closest to the actual meaning conveyed, such as "during." It is always a great idea to look prepositions up; Longman is the best source for this.

(3) One final note, "fiction," when applied to literature, is an uncountable noun; it is also called an unquantifiable noun. What this means is that Austen wrote "fiction," not "fictions": Austen set most of her fiction in the time during which she lived.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted May 23, 2012 at 3:04 PM (Answer #4)

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Prepositions are often tricky for English language learners. 

The correct sentence should be:

Austen set most of her fictions in the time in which she lived. 

Prepositions are often metaphors that we use to describe relationships that are not really physical, and it might help you to remember that the word "position" is in "preposition." 

When we think of a period of time, we sometimes think of ourselves as "in" that time, as though time were a box we were physically in.  There are other metaphors of time that require prepositions.  For example, when a person shows up at the correct time, we say he or she is "on time. "  Clearly, time is something we cannot really be "on," but this is how we express the concept.  

Try thinking of prepositions as metaphors as you grapple with using them.  There is a wonderful author, George Lakoff, who explores this idea at great length in several books.   

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