Three prepositional phrases one after the other: is it harder to understand?


This text was written by coffee1054 in this question:

The simplest case how the superconductivity appear it is fall to zero of the resistance of conductor at low temperature.

Which is the better way to rewrite the sentence above, to make it clearer?

Superconductivity occurs when the resistance of a conductor at low temperature has fallen to zero.


The falling to zero of the resistance of a conductor at low temperature gives rise to superconductivity.

In the latter sentence, do the three prepositional phrases in a row make it harder to understand?


Posted 2014-12-14T12:56:13.677

Reputation: 116 610

1For me, the "Superconductivity occurs [...]" reads better. The other alternative doesn't really make it more difficult, but as the reader, I had to wait for so long until I was able to get to the point, which is about the condition for superconductivity. – Damkerng T. – 2014-12-14T13:08:38.317

There are actually four in a row in that sentence. – snailplane – 2014-12-15T08:18:50.403

@snailboat: I was taking "to zero" as part of the subject phrase, but you're right. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2014-12-15T12:35:53.313



No. Because each of the prepositional phrases is short, and because they refer to each other sequentially, they are not confusing. Consider this sentence:

The treasure is buried in a chest in the middle of the river.

This is pretty much the same construction. When you read, you first think of the treasure, then the chest, then the middle of the river--the sentence flows naturally.

I still prefer your first option--actually, I would say "...falls to zero" instead of "...has fallen to zero." But that's not because of the prepositional phrases, it's because the pseudo-passive gerund construction "the falling to zero" is awkward. My suggestion would be:

When low temperature causes the resistance of a material to fall to zero, it becomes a superconductor.


Posted 2014-12-14T12:56:13.677

Reputation: 5 375


The original sentence is poorly written. It could be rewritten many ways, but I would go with:

At low temperatures, the falling to zero of the resistance of a conductor gives rise to superconductivity.


At low temperatures, the falling to zero of a conductor's resistance gives rise to superconductivity.

Since low temperatures lead to the reduced resistance, I think it is better to write it this way.


Posted 2014-12-14T12:56:13.677

Reputation: 29 679


The other answers are correct, but no matter how the sentence is phrased (by their suggestions or even your own proposed phrasing), they leave out an important part of the badly-worded example; namely, that this is only one of the conditions (the simplest case) under which superconductivity can occur.

So I would prefix this to any revision (or incorporate it somehow):

"In the simplest case,.. "

Brian Hitchcock

Posted 2014-12-14T12:56:13.677

Reputation: 8 181