The Grammarphobia Blog

End games

Q: In the “Living Dead” chapter of your grammar book Woe Is I, you say it’s OK to end a sentence with a preposition and you mention that Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton all did it. Could you back that up with some examples from their texts?

A: Here are a few:

Chaucer:

“But yit to this thing ther is yit another thing y-ioigned, more to ben wondred upon.” (From his translation of Boethius, Book IV.1)

Shakespeare:

“And do such bitter business as the day / Would quake to look on.” (Hamlet)

“… the thousand natural shocks / That flesh is heir to.” (Hamlet)

“And makes us rather bear those ills we have / Than fly to others that we know not of?” (Hamlet)

” … those eyes / Which thou dost glare with.” (Macbeth)

” … some life / Which action’s self was tongue to.” (Henry VIII)

Milton:

“…ever held allowable to deal so by a tyrant that could no otherwise be dealt with.” (The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates)

” …what a fine conformity would it starch us all into!” (Areopagitica)

There are many more examples, but these are the closest I have at hand for the three authors you asked about.

You can find such “terminal prepositions” in Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons, as well as in the works of other great writers: Ben Jonson, Samuel Johnson, Spenser, Congreve, Fielding, Defoe, Austen, Tennyson, Thackeray, Swift, Carroll, James, Kipling, Twain, Joyce, and many others.

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