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Subject:Re: prepositions (was Connected millions From:KnoxML1 <KnoxML1 -at- TEOMAIL -dot- JHUAPL -dot- EDU> Date:Fri, 9 Dec 1994 13:55:22 EST
>A preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with. I'd never write the
>preceding sentence in a manual, but I would put it in email/e-mail/E-mail --
>Sometimes. The techwriting list seems to be rather informal, so unless I'm
>recommending a particular phrase, I'm not too worried about perfect grammar,
>just with communicating an idea.
Glen, using a preposition at the end of a sentence is perfectly good grammar in
English. The supersition that it's not OK is an old one, however; it comes
from trying to apply the rules of Latin grammar to English. From Roy Copperud's
_American Usage and Style: The Consensus_ (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1980, p.
"The notion that it is wrong, or undesirable, to end a sentence with a
preposition has been derided by Fouwler and many another authority on language.
The most telling blow was struck by Wir Winston Churchill, who, when accused of
ending a sentence with a preposition, is said to have replied: 'This is the
type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put.'
"You can show that sentences with the prepositions at the end are more
forceful than those that have been recast to avoid it; you can cite masters of
English prose from Chaucer to Churchill who employ end prepositions freely and
consciously; and you can prove that such usage is established literary English,
but the superstitious will still wince at it.
"In writing ... the avoidance of the end preposition is more evident,
perhaps, in structural detours that start with a preposition followed by
_which_. Few care about making the world a better place _to_live_in_, but
nearly everyone wants to make it a better place _in_which_to_live_.'The car she
was riding in,' after editing with zeal and ignorance, becomes: 'The car in
which she was riding.'
"The use of circumlocution to find another place than the end for the
propositions not only weakens the sentence but gives it a stilted sound. 'What
are we coming to?'; 'There was nothing to talk about'; 'It was something he had
always dreamed of'; and 'The situation was too much to contend with' are
perfectly good English in any context. The alternatives are clumsy: 'To what
are we coming?'; 'There was nothing about which to talk'; 'It was something of
which he had always dreamed'; and 'The situation was too much with which to
"Avoidance of the preposition at the end came from applying Latin rules of
grammar to English. In Latin, it is all but impossible to place a preposition
after its object. Linguist now, however, have decided that the rules of one
language make a Procrustean bed for another."