Ending with a preposition

This post is especially for Jocose. I’ve been reading The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson and came across this passage I wanted to share:

Consider the curiously persistent notion that sentences should not end with a preposition. The source of this stricture, and several other equally dubious ones, was one Robert Lowth, an eighteenth-century clergyman and amateur grammarian whose A Short Introduction to English Grammar, published in 1762, enjoyed a long and distressingly influential life both in his native England and abroad. It is to Lowth we can trace many a pedant’s most treasured notions: the believe that you must say different from rather than different to or different than, the idea that two negatives make a positive, the rule that you must not say "the heaviest of the two objects," but rather, "the heavier," the distinction between shall and will, and the clearly nonsensical belief that between can apply only to two things and among to more than two… Perhaps the most remarkable and curiously enduring of Lowth’s many beliefs was the conviction that sentences ought not to end with a preposition. But even he was not didactic about it. He recognized that ending a sentence with a preposition was idiomatic and common in both speech and informal writing. He suggested only that he thought it generally better and more graceful, not crucial, to place the preposition before its relative "in solemn and elevated" writing. Within a hundred years this had been converted from a piece of questionable advice into an immutable rule. In a remarkable outburst of literal-mindedness, nineteenth-century academics took it as read that the very name pre-position meant it must come before something–anything. (141)

?†The book is rather good. A light read, but it offers a lot of information about the development and deployment of the English language and Bryson has a bit of fun with the writing every now and then as he uses the words on the page as actual examples.

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3 thoughts on “Ending with a preposition

  1. I know I’m going to sound pedantic, but I actually knew that, and had just talked to the Girl about that the other day (I proofed a coverletter for her). I love when people will nail you for saying things like “Where should I meet you at?” insisting that you should never end a sentence with a preposition, but they themselves will say, “Who are you going to the moview with?” or “What’s that book your reading about?” If you are going to argue the preposition rule, please, I beg you, know your prepositions.

    May I quote the late Sir Winston Churchill?

    “That is the type of pedantry up with which I will not put”

  2. BTW, coincidently, I bought Bryson‚??s book, Made in America, the other day. I‚??m glad that you like his writing. Now I‚??m looking forward to reading it more than before.

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