Alphadictionary.com

Our Sponsors

Technical Translation
Website Translation Clip Art
 

Ending Sentences with Prepositions

You have words - now what do you do with them?

Ending Sentences with Prepositions

Postby Davekent » Fri Apr 14, 2006 8:46 am

What's the opinion of our community of grammar scholars?

Is this something up with which you will not put?

or

Are prepositions ok to send a sentence with?
Davekent
Junior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 10:12 am

Postby Brazilian dude » Fri Apr 14, 2006 9:35 am

The first is attributed to Winston Churchill, right? Anyway, I'll vote for the second.

Brazilian dude
Languages rule!
Brazilian dude
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 1464
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Botucatu - SP Brazil

Postby tcward » Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:35 pm

Dude, you got a new title on the board!

I agree with BD. What were all those persnickety folks thinking -- that simply making a rule like that would keep people from doing something that came so naturally?

English has a long and serious love affair with ending sentences with prepositions. They can give it up!

-Tim
User avatar
tcward
Senior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 789
Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2005 5:18 pm
Location: The Old North State

Postby Brazilian dude » Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:47 pm

Oh, I'm a Grand Panjandrum. I feel like a raja now. Where are my odalisques? (Or is it a sultan that gets them? :? )

Brazilian dude
Languages rule!
Brazilian dude
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 1464
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Botucatu - SP Brazil

Postby Brazilian dude » Fri Apr 14, 2006 3:06 pm

All right, something more educational:

The question of the correctness of a preposition at the end of a sentence or clause is one which has been udner adiscussion for more than three centuries. As is not the case with tsome of the other long-lkived topics examined in this book, recent commentators - at least since Fowler 1926 - are unanimous in their rejection of the notion that ending a sentence with a preposition is an error or an offense against propriety. Folwer terms the idea a "cherished superstition." And not only do the commentatores reject the notion, but actual usage supports their rejection. So if everybody who is in the know agrees, there's no problem, right?
Wrong.

Thank you for your reply to my questions but I find it extremely diffictul to trust an opinion on grammar prepared by someone who ends a sentence with a preposition.

This is part of a letter received by one of our editors who had answered some question for the writer. Members of the never-end-a-sentence-with-a-prepostion school are atill with us and are not reluctant to make themselves known:

Some time ago I ended a column with the observation that sportscaster John Madden had better be respected "because he is too big to argue with." To my dismay, that sentence proved at least a dozen reproachful letters saying that I had violated "one of the oldest rules "of good writing, and that I was providing a poor example to the young. Alas, I had ended a sentence with a preposition - Mary Pat Flaherty, Pittsburgh Press, 28 Apr. 1985

And, lest you think the true believers are made up only of the sort of people who write letters to the editor, a full twenty percent of the Harper 1975 usage panel - people who are professional writers - believed the preposition at the end was an error.

Where did the "cherished superstition" come from? It seems to have originated with the 17th-century English poet, playwright, and essayist John Dryden. In 1672 Dryden wrote a piece of criticism called "Defense of The Epilogue," the main purpose of which was to demonstrate that the English used by writers of Dryden't time was superior to that of an earlier generation of writers. The writers Dryden talks chiefly about are Shakespeare, Fletcher, and Jonson, and the chooses Jonson, who had the highest reputation of the three at the time, as the one from whom to take specific examples The italic line is from Jonson's Catiline (1611); the comment on it is Dryden's:

The bodies that those wouls were frighted from.
The Preposition in the end of the sentence; a common fault with him, and which I have but lately observ'd in my own writings.

Dryden at some time later in his career was supposed to have gone back over his own words and revised the final prepositions he found. We cannot be sure how Dryden developed the idea the terminal preposition was an error, but Latin is probably involved. The construction does not exist in Latin, and Dryden claimed to have composed some of his pieces in Latin and then translated them into English - apparently for greater elegance of propriety of expression.

Almost a century later Bishop Lowth 1762 dealt with the problem. He may have had the episcopal tongue partly in cheek:

This is an idiom, which our language is stongly inclined to: it prevails in common conversation, and suits very well with the familiar style in writing: but the placing of the preposition before the relative, is more graceful, as well as more perspicuous; and agrees much better with the solemn and elevated style.

Lowth's approach is quite reasonable; clearly he cannot be blamed (as he is by Bryson 1984) for an absolutist approach to the matter. Hall 1917 says that Hugh Blair, author of a widely used book on rhetoric published in 1783, gave wide vogue to the notion that the terminal preposition must be avoided. If Blair did, then he may have passed the notion on to Lindley Murray 1795. Murray confected his very popular grammar from the words of several predecessors, including Lowth and Blair. Murray was notoriously strait-laced: he quoted Lowth's statement, but where Lowth said "which our language is strongly inclined to," Murray wrote "to which our language is strongly inclined." Even a bishop could not put a preposition at the end of a cluase and satisfy Murray.
Languages rule!
Brazilian dude
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 1464
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Botucatu - SP Brazil

Postby Brazilian dude » Fri Apr 14, 2006 3:27 pm

More:

To Blair and Murray we may add Noah Webster,. According to Baron 1982, Webster in his 1794 grammar strongly disapporved the terminal preposition. So the 19th century began with three widely used, standard school texts formidably opposing the preposition at the end of the sentence. The topic entered the general consciousness through schoolteachers, and, as we have seen, it persists there still.

Perhaps the construction was relatively new in Dryden's time, and he was reacting, as many do, to something new and obtrusive. Bu he did pick one out of Ben Jonson, and Shakespeare had used it too:

Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which thou doest glare with (Macbeth)

We also have evidence that the postponed preposition was, in fact, a regular feature in some constructions in Old English. No feature of the language can be more firmly rooted than if it survived from Old English. Evidently the whole notion of its being wrong is Dryden's invention.

And what is curious is the fact that the first example Dryden picked to make his point about (the one quoted above) contains a construction in which the preposition must be put at the end - a relative claused introduced by that. Some recent commentators such as Burchfield 1981, 1996 have pointed out that there are a few constructions in which the postponed preposition is either mandatory or prefereable. The restrictive clause introduced by that has required the postponing of the preposition since Old Enlgish. Here are some examples:

"Now," thought he, "I see the dangers that Mistrust and Timorous were driven back by." - John Bunayn, Pilgrim's Progress, 1678

Fanny could with difficulty give the smile that was here asked for - jane Austen, Mansfield Park, 1814

... owing to the restrictions of space that Mr. Belloc has contented himself with - Times Literary Supp., 20 Feb. 1937

... with whatever it is that good English is good for - James Sledd, in Greenbaum 1985

When the restrictive clause is a contact caluse (with the relative pronun omitted), the preposition also must come at the end:

There were some of the placid blessing I promised myself the enjoyment of - Samuel Johnson, The Idler, 10 June 1958

The Universtiy is one most people have heard of - Robert Frost, letter, 20 Jan. 1936

... to visit a guy I went to Ohio State with - James Thurber, letter, 1937

... something all of us can learn a thing or two form - Simon 1980

Clauses introducted by whatrequire postponing the preposition:

I know what you are thking of - Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, 1814

.. what the same cars look like- Young America Junior Reader, 7 Mr. 1952

That's what the taxpayers provide our salaries and buildings for - John Summerskill, quoted in Change, October 1971

Wh- clauses in general tend to have the preposition at the end:

... the reception which this proposal met with - Henry Fielding, Jonathan Wild, 1743

... aspect of Army life which I delight in - Edward Weeks, Atlantic, December 1952

... people ... whom you would like to dine with - Archibald MacLeish, letter, 13 Sept. 1954

... a pitch which the New York batter... swung at - E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime, 975

Wh- questions usually have the preposition postponed:

... What else are they for? - Trimble 1975

"And what are they made of?" Alice asked - Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

Whom is that literature about? - Earl Shorris, N.Y. Times Book Rev., 1 July 1984

Infinitive clauses have the preposition at the end:

He had enough money to settle down on - James Joyce, Dubliners, 1914

... should have had a paragraph all to himself to die in - Leacock 1943

The pecualiarities of legal English are often used as a stick to beat the official with - Gowers 1948

Burchfield also mentions two other constructions. One is the passive:

None of them ... has yet been heard of - The Intimate Notebooks of George Jean Nathan, 1932

The other is the exlamation: "What a shocking state you are in!" (example from Burchfield). And here are a few assorted inversions, passives, and other constructions in which the terminal preposition is idiomatic:

Albania, indeed, have seen more of than any Englishman -Lord Byron, letter, 3 May 1910

... the Pretender had not gratified his enemies by getting himself put an end to - Henry Adams, letter, 3 Sept. 1863

They probably know which shelf everything is on in the refrigerator - And More by Andy Rooney, 1982

... shorts, size 36, which she spent the rest of the evening crawling in and out of - Russell Baker, N.Y. Times Mag, 29 Jan. 1984

The preposition at then has always been an idioamtic feature of English. It would be pointelss to wrory about the few who believe it is a mistake.

From Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage

Idle hands, you know.

Brazilian dude
Languages rule!
Brazilian dude
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 1464
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Botucatu - SP Brazil

Postby gailr » Fri Apr 14, 2006 9:30 pm

Ummm, btw, this giggle of odalisques totally asked me to tell "tio" panjandrum that they, like, went to the mall? 'Cause zomg they are so totally bored with *grammar* and stuff!!!1one1! I mean, seriously?

On the other hand, quite the brace of examples, Dude! Informative and entertaining as always; I'm impressed. Idle hands are supposed to be the devil's workshop, but you seem to be doing a hell of a lot of research for us angles [sic].

-gailr
User avatar
gailr
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 1945
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:40 am

Postby Brazilian dude » Fri Apr 14, 2006 9:54 pm

but you seem to be doing a hell of a lot of research for us angles [sic].

No, I just copied from a book. :)

No mall here in the booming metropolis of Botucatu. The odalisques must be hiding some other place.

Brazilian dude
Languages rule!
Brazilian dude
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 1464
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Botucatu - SP Brazil

Postby Stargzer » Sat Apr 15, 2006 3:48 pm

Davekent,

You might also have a look at this article from Dr. Goodword's reference shelf: Will I be arrested if I end a sentence with a preposition? . There are many fine articles there, enough to pleasantly while away many an hour. :-)

[Author's Note: No infinitives were injured in the composition of this post, even though they may have been split. This is English after all, not French or Latin. :wink: ]
Regards//Larry

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
-- Attributed to Richard Henry Lee
User avatar
Stargzer
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 2546
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:56 pm
Location: Crownsville, MD

Postby Brazilian dude » Sat Apr 15, 2006 5:22 pm

No infinitives were injured in the composition of this post, even though they may have been split. This is English after all, not French or Latin.

Precious.

Brazilian dude
Languages rule!
Brazilian dude
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 1464
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Botucatu - SP Brazil

Postby Brazilian dude » Sat Apr 15, 2006 6:30 pm

Languages rule!
Brazilian dude
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 1464
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Botucatu - SP Brazil

Postby tcward » Sat Apr 15, 2006 11:29 pm

Now, now, BD, what on earth are you upset for? You've given us a lot to think about. But, you know what? -- don't give in. You work hard enough around here to deserve a title that we all can look up to.

-Tim
User avatar
tcward
Senior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 789
Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2005 5:18 pm
Location: The Old North State

Postby azhreia » Sun Apr 16, 2006 12:24 am

I remember waiting anxiously to hear what friends and acquaintances thought of the first book I had written when it was published.

Imagine my dismay when the very first (written) response I got from _anyone_ expressed disappointment that I'd ended a sentence with a preposition.

To me, the convolutions that a sentence must frequently be tortured into to avoid ending with a preposition make the writing sound stilted and less than convincing.

But I'm probably in a minority of one - I'm used to that. :-)

Azh
azhreia
Junior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2006 2:03 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Postby tcward » Sun Apr 16, 2006 9:20 pm

The only real, honest benefit in seeking to avoid ending sentences (or phrases) with prepositions is that it forces us as writers to consider others ways of expressing our thoughts. Hopefully it gives us consistent practice in the craft, and, if we're good enough at it, the practice helps us hone that skill of self-expression so that, in our old age, our minds have had enough exercise that they maintain their usefulness. ;)

-Tim
User avatar
tcward
Senior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 789
Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2005 5:18 pm
Location: The Old North State

Postby gailr » Mon Apr 17, 2006 9:35 pm

Tim wrote:The only real, honest benefit in seeking to avoid ending sentences (or phrases) with prepositions ...
Thanks for mentioning the (or phrases) Tim. One of the semi-dormant nuns lurking in the "grade school memories" section of my brain sprang into action upon seeing Azh's remark:

azhreia wrote: To me, the convolutions that a sentence must frequently be tortured into ...
She immediately redacted it to: " To me, the convolutions into which a sentence must frequently be tortured..." before I shoved her back into the closet!

I hope your vacation provided some great R&R, Azh. Sorry to hear that your critics were so picayune, but then, you know what they say about critics.

-gailr
User avatar
gailr
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 1945
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:40 am

Next

Return to Grammar

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests

cron