Prepositions You Can Be Proud Of

John_Dryden_portrait

Apparently this man started the “no prepositions at the end of a sentence” myth. Thanks a lot, John Dryden.

Did that title make anyone flinch? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised—most of us are taught in school that it’s wrong to end a sentence with a preposition.

Turns out, this is a myth. Both everyday usage and the laws of grammar say that it is perfectly fine to end a sentence with a preposition. According to Merriam-Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage, “recent commentators…are unanimous in their rejection of the notion that ending a sentence with a preposition is an error or an offense against propriety…And not only do the commentators reject the notion, but actual usage supports their rejection.”

The rule apparently originated with John Dryden, 17th century poet and dramatist, who decided since you can’t end a sentence with a preposition in Latin, the same should be true of English. Of course, English is not Latin, and different rules of grammar apply.

So, as a modern-day writer, what should you do? I’d say that it depends. There is still a large portion of the population that believes this is a rule, so if you are writing in a professional context, it’s better to just re-write the sentence to keep the offending preposition away from the end. Sometimes, though, that just sounds awkward (imagine I’d reworded the title of this post to be “Prepositions of Which You Can Be Proud”). In those cases, you can be sure you have grammar and historical usage on your side. If somebody questions you, refer them to these prestigious examples:

“Mrs. Bennet had many grievances to relate, and much to complain of.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“He had enough money to settle down on.” – James Joyce, Dubliners

 “I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.” – Oscar Wilde

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2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing tips

2 responses to “Prepositions You Can Be Proud Of

  1. Your article reminded me of Winston Churchill’s comment about the “Don’t end with a preposition” rule: “That is the kind of snobbery up with which I will not put.”

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