Q: Please help me win a bet. I’ve always believed that it’s wrong to end a sentence with a preposition. My boyfriend strongly disagrees. Which one of us is right?
A: I hope this isn’t something that you’ve bet a lot of money on. As I say in my grammar book Woe Is I, there’s no legitimate rule against ending a sentence with a preposition.
This isn’t a newfangled idea of mine, either. Eighty years ago, H.W. Fowler, in A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, included the preposition taboo among his Superstitions and Fetishes.
The 17th-century poet John Dryden concocted this so-called rule, apparently to make English act more like Latin, according to a Usage Note in The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. But we can blame Robert Lowth, an 18th-century clergyman and Latin scholar, for popularizing it.
The prohibition caught on, perhaps because of its simple-mindedness, even though great literature from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Milton is full of sentences ending in prepositions (positioning words like “at,” “on,” “over,” “up,” and so on).