The Grammarphobia Blog

A modest preposition

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).

For more misconceptions about English, check out the Grammar Myths page of Grammarphobia.com.

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