In casual conversation, it is perfectly fine to end a sentence with a preposition.

  • How many job applications did you apply to?

The grammatically correct way is supposed to be:

  • To how many job applications did you apply?

If the original language's sentence is grammatically correct, then does that mean the English translated sentence must be grammatically correct as well? Or should the casual form be adopted instead to just get the meaning across?

My biggest fear is that a monolingual English speaker will read the line in English and interpret that line as being grammatically incorrect, assuming the source language is grammatically incorrect as well, even though the main purpose is not the grammatical correctness. It's the casual tone that is being translated. The characters may in fact be speaking grammatically correctly, just in a different language.

  • If we're going to be pedantic, I'm not sure how common it is to apply to a job application in the first place...
    – user
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 14:32
  • You have a strange idea of what it means to be "grammatically correct". The first line is perfectly grammatically correct. (Though it doesn't make much sense: as @αCVn says, you apply to a job, not to a job application.)
    – TRiG
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 14:35

5 Answers 5


Technically, not ending a sentence with a preposition is a rule that Latin-obsessed 17th-century nerds tried to impose on the English Language, as a part of a larger attempt to make English grammar work exactly the same as Latin grammar. This rule wasn't true for English grammar before the 17th century, and doesn't really reflect modern usage either, though it is taught, and some official texts insist on it. It is perfectly alright to end sentences with prepositions. (Sources: Oxford Dictionary blog, Merriam Webster Dictionary usage notes)

To the broader question of tone vs. correctness, when translating text, you want to preserve the language register of the original text, the tone of what is being said. If you alter the register, you are changing what the situation "feels like" - you're changing who the characters are - how they talk, how they interact with each other.

In some languages and some situations, some grammatical errors are more acceptable. Those "errors" have become part of everyday usage, whereas the "correct" form is "formal". When that is the case, the usage is what it is. If your characters were speaking English, that's how they would have said it, right? They would not have used the formal form? Then don't use the formal form.

  • That doesn't seem to work for Chinese. In Chinese, "correct vernacular grammar" is just "whatever sounds understandable to a monolingual native speaker". There are definitely formal and informal registers of Chinese. The formal register of Vernacular Chinese tends to use more expressions from Classical Chinese, and the grammar tends to be more conservative, having Chinese roots. The informal register of Vernacular Chinese tends to have more foreign influences (Japanese, English).
    – Double U
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 3:23
  • I think second-language speakers of Chinese actually learn the informal register of Vernacular Chinese, because that's the form that people speak on the street. Different regions of China may have different preferences to use specific characters, but the characters themselves are etymological synonyms. That's likely why many people do believe that Chinese has various mutually intelligible and unintelligible topolects, but one written language.
    – Double U
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 3:30
  • 1
    @DoubleU. In any language, "correct vernacular grammar" is just "whatever sounds right to a monolingual native speaker".
    – TRiG
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 12:54

You're up against the difference between translation and transliteration. Transliterations simply involve word for word substitution from one language to the closest available word in another. True translations should convey the meaning of the original material in a different language, that includes nuances of tone and even the use of local idioms where possible. Translations are usually better than transliterations because they convey meaning but are sometimes impossible due to the fact that not all languages have words for all the concepts that other languages have words for.


In general, the usual expectation for translations is that they be "invisible," that is, that they not call attention to themselves. Given that, the idiomatic expression is the correct choice. The use of formal language in a casual setting calls attention to itself in a way that is not true for the less strict phrasing.


It is more a matter of tone, but the redundancy of applying for a job application rather than a job will be noticed.

Maintain the tone and choose the more formal one if the original is more formal.

You have many alternatives:

How many jobs have you applied for?

How many positions have you applied for?

To how many jobs have you applied?

How many jobs did you apply for?

For how many jobs did you apply?

For how many positions have you applied?

To how many positions have you applied?

How many job applications have you filled out?


Ideally a good translation transports the original's:

  • meaning
  • style
  • subtext
  • connotations
  • etc.

This is usually not possible, because different languages work differently, and a translater will have to make a choice which aspect to preserve. This choice will depend on:

  • genre
  • audience
  • expectations of the publisher or author

What you must do in your case, only you can know.

  • 1
    You're not wrong about the general considerations of translation, but it is about their specific case (and similar cases) that OP asks. Isn't saying "only you can know" sort of like saying "sorry, I can't answer"? Surely there are at least some guidelines that could help the OP make the choice? Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 17:25
  • You're not answering the question. Perhaps you can add in one or more examples. Either the same one the question author stated or other similar ones.
    – Cyn
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 18:12

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