Re: Ending a sentence with a preposition

Subject: Re: Ending a sentence with a preposition
From: "Katherine D. Fisher" <kdfisher -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 18:18:17 -0700

Joanna Sheldon wrote:

> Frederic (and Moshe) --

> >I've seen many allusions to the "no preposition rule" in some general
> >newsgroups, with a quotation from Winston Churchill (quoting from memory
> >"this is the kind of arrant pedantry I'll never put up with").
> >Can someone explain the rule, the meaning of the quotation, and give some
> >examples or what's correct and what's wrong ?
> >Please reply by private E-mail, this topic is of no interest for 99 % of
> >TECHWR-L members.

> I'll quote Henry Fowler (Dictionary of English Usage) whom I recommend as an
> authority in such manners. (To those of you who've seen me trot out this
> material before -- apologies.)

> "It is a cherished superstition that prepositions must, in spite of the
> incurable English instinct for putting them late [...] be kept true to their
> name and placed before the word they govern. 'A sentence ending in a
> preposition is an inelegant sentence' represents a very general belief. [...]
> The fact is that the remarkable freedom enjoyed by English in putting its
> prepositions late and omitting its relatives is an important element in the
> flexibility of the language. The power of saying 'A state of dejection such
> as they are absolute strangers to' (Cowper) instead of 'A state of dejection
> of an intensity to which they are absolute strangers' or 'People worth
> talking to' instead of 'People with whom it is worth while to talk', is not
> one to be lightly surrendered."

> He goes on to explain how over-Latinised grammarians tried to cure English
> of its freewheeling, loose ways; then he quotes the Greats, all cheerfully
> tossing proportions at the ends of their sentences: Chaucer, Spenser,
> Shakespeare ("Such bitter business as the day would quake to look on"),
> Johnson, Burton, Swift, Burke, Lamb, Quincey, Hazlitt, Thackeray among them....

> Is that enough? It ought to do any of us.

> Moshe -- I notice you carefully avoided hanging your preposition in the
> midst of ridiculing the practice:

> >The whole business of ending with a preposition is one about which the
> >prim schoolteachers back down in NC used to make quite an issue. I
> >still remember my third grade teacher, one of the vanishing breed
> >of old-maid school teachers, who even corrected our Weekly Reader
> >for improper grammar. We all became accustomed to speaking such
> >convoluted English in her presence that conjugating Latin verbs
> >was childs' play in comparison.

> It seems your masters' pedantry rubbed off on you. I'd call that first
> sentence pretty overweight, and I'd suggest instead: "The whole business of
> ending with a preposition is one the prim schoolteachers down in NC used to
> make quite an issue of."

> Now that's much less prim! And much more true to English.

> Joanna

"A preposition is something you should never end a sentence with."

Kathy Fisher
Freelance Technical Writer
Albuquerque, New Mexico

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