Friday, May 13, 2005

Ending Sentences with Prepositions

Through Ken Summers' post linking to the true Grover Hollywood story, I came upon This Life, which led me to La Cabrita Susanita and her post wherein she lists excuses she's used to justify not moving forward in a relationship.

Now, obviously, she can and will dump or reject guys--or just avoid advancing the relationship--for whatever reasons she wants, and as a skinny guy who's out of shape and likes some science fiction, I don't know that my view on the matter might mean much to her, but I do want to respond to one of the items she mentioned.

The third thing on her list was
  • ends sentences in prepositions and other forms of poor grammar
I like grammar. Many of my friends and coworkers would tell you I like it too much. And so I can appreciate her irritation at hearing the English language used badly. But I'm going to have to speak up in defense of the legitimacy of ending sentences with prepositions.

Numerous sources insist that the rule prohibiting it is essentially bogus. The most common origin offered for this "rule" seems to be, as Tina Blue puts it, that it was "devised by pedants who believed that English was inferior to Latin and should be improved by forcing it onto the Procrustean bed of Latin grammar." As she notes, though, "English is descended from an ancestral German dialect, not from Latin, and certain of the rules based on Latin grammar simply do not fit the structure of English."

Who's Tina Blue, you ask? I've no idea. I quote her because I think she phrased well and succinctly the points made in more detail by others. However, in another article, she does cite several impressive sources to back up her position. Rather than my doing injustice to or simply repeating what she said there, let me exhort you to read the whole thing.

Certainly it's often clumsy and inelegant to end a sentence with a preposition, but it can often be just as bad to contort the sentence in an effort to avoid it, and without a sound basis for a rule against it, there's no good reason to be especially bothered by it as bad grammar.


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