Ending a sentence with a Preposition


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Thread: Ending a sentence with a Preposition

  1. #1
    Member MHarding53's Avatar
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    Ending a sentence with a Preposition

    Yes, yes; I know it is wrong. Or is it? I have examples of a real grey area. Many of you know exactly where I am headed with this.

    "Where is George at?"

    "Can we end a sentence with the word at?"

    I have researched the former until my eyes bleed. If we are looking at US wordsmiths or English Professors and their opinions, they often say it is OK to use in dialogue since it can be argued that it is a dialect. However many are divided upon wether or not it is acceptable anywhere else.

    If we are looking a British or Canadian wordsmiths or English Professors and their opinions, I have almost always heard a resounding NO!

    As for the latter I get an almost uniform yes since the word at is being used as a thing not as a proposition. I would love to listen to the opinions of the writers here.
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  2. #2
    I don't ever end a sentence with a preposition in formal writing (professional pieces for work and the like).

    For dialogue, it's down to what a character actual would say. For narration it likewise depends upon the narrator.
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  3. #3
    Long since out of fashion, by about ten years.

    No one will ever pull you up for ending a sentence with a preposition. Definitely not in creative writing, and only occasionally in academic/formal.
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  4. #4
    WF Veteran Riis Marshall's Avatar
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    Hello M

    The rule about never ending a sentence with a preposition was articulated, I think, about the time of the rule about the split infinitive: contemporary with Shakespeare.

    Churchill, a guy who knew just a bit about our language, responded with: 'Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.'

    I think most modern writers agree both ending prepositions and split infinitives are acceptable, although as somebody pointed out if a critic can find nothing else wrong with your work she or he will comment on these 'errors'.

    In your example above, we don't need the preposition at all, whether it is a preposition or anything else: 'Where is George?' is fine the way it is.

    Sometimes not to end with a preposition results in an awkward reading. Yes, I guess if you can correct it and the sentence still reads smoothly then do it. Otherwise don't create an awkward sentence just to please a critic.

    All the best with your writing.

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  5. #5
    Member Sonata's Avatar
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    I do my best not to end a sentence with a preposition because that was the way grammar was taught for English Language GCE "O" level many years ago when I was at school and it just stuck. In addition, when I first moved here after having to give up work I used to help a few teenagers with spoken English for their matriculation, therefore had a habit of correcting their grammar.

    As American English is taught here it was almost like a different language to me, especially as the majority of English teachers are Russian.

    But - as you have just seen, I do use "but" and "and" to start sentences at times and I am fully aware that according to the grammar I was taught, that is incorrect. I also use more commas than many people, including the unnecessary ones before "but" and "and", as I have a habit of reading what I write in my head as I write it, so put a comma where I would normally draw breath if I was speaking and not writing.

    Regarding split infinitives - when I am scribbling my doggerel I will use a split infinitive if it makes the "verse" sound more logical to me, although I usually only write for myself and I do not write prose.

    I hope the above makes sense even if it is not grammatical in places!
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  6. #6
    A preposition is something you should never end a sentence with.

    In fact, that rule was artificially introduced in (if memory serves) the late seventeenth century specifically to make English obey similar rules to Latin, in which you simply can't end a sentence with a preposition and still have the sentence make sense. As the first line above shows, that's not true of English, and as such the rule is really nonsense. I wouldn't bother with it.

    The OP's second example is a bit of a red herring: I'm not sure what 'at' is there, but it's not a preposition in that use. It's more the subject of the sentence? ("The man wrote a word" compared with "the man wrote 'at'".)
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  7. #7
    Years ago I read an anecdote by a writer about this very thing. Apparently the writer used to accompany his father on delivery trips in and around the Boston area. One such trip was to Harvard. The writer's father was unfamiliar with the campus and stopped a student to ask, "Can you tell me where the (whatever the building was) is at?" To which the young Harvard student replied, with much disdain, "Sir, at Harvard we never end a sentence with a preposition."

    The father calmly rephrased his query. "I'm sorry. Can you tell me where (building name) is at, asshole?"
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  8. #8
    Prepositions are tricky little buggers. Often they're the last thing I catch. Usually I try to get them surrounded, but you gotta hang on to 'em any way you can.
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  9. #9
    From the radio traffic report: "Trains and buses are on or close."

    And from Physical Review: "Do not use contractions."
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    From the radio traffic report: "Trains and buses are on or close."

    And from Physical Review: "Do not use contractions."
    Contractions are another thing I do not use in my professional work. Such are the wages of working in a conservative profession. On the other hand, I'm trying to get over my professional training and use them more in my creative writing.
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