1. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    Ending a sentence with a preposition

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Mike Cornelison, May 3, 2012.

    Is it really wrong to say

    ~~ That was as much of a shocker as any celebrity death I can think of. ~~~

    and preferable to say

    ~~ That was as much of a shocker as any celebrity death of which I can think. ~~

    If I'm writing dialog, I'll just go with the first one, because that's how I imagine it would be spoken 99 times out of 100, but is the second one still the only grammatically sentence of the two? Is that whole rule of never ending a sentence with a preposition still cast in stone?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, 'tis set in blancmange.

    It wouldn't do to overuse it, and you'd best avoid it in formal writing (e.g. academic papers), but it is not a great sin in fiction.

    You could run in to a submissions editor who dislikes it.
     
  3. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    Ending a sentence with a preposition, I will not up with it put.
     
  4. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    As Cog says, it's one of those rules that's not much of a rule at all. It's never really been a part of English grammar: it was invented by people who thought English was too "common" and should be more like the (in their view) aesthetically superior classical languages.

    For what it's worth, there's an argument that the "of" in your sentence is not actually functioning as a preposition anyway, but as part of a phrasal verb.
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    As I heard it, it was "This rule is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put!" (Attributed to Winston Churchill).

    I like the one with the child objecting to his parent fetching a book about Australia: "What did you bring the book I didn't want to be read to out of about Down Under up for?"
     
  6. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    LOL at set in blancmange. You ever hear of that band? Good band, first time I've ever heard the word actually used in conversation.

    LOL

    Interesting on the "phrasal verb." Good to hear, it always seemed pretty awkward sticking to that rule, but it was a rule I'd heard enough to worry that if I break it, I might be flagging myself for bad grammar.

    Let's just hope the submissions editors got the memo that it's an outdated rule.
     
  7. Writer1
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    Writer1 New Member

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    Hi,

    If I were editing for you, I would probably suggest that you recast your sentence to eliminate the concern. For example, "... death I can recall, imagine, remember, envision."

    D
     
  8. simina
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    simina Senior Member

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    As far as grammatical correctness goes, I'm really unsure. I took a linguistics class last year where I was taught that there is a prescriptive rule which disallows the ending of a sentence with a preposition. That said, I was also taught that language is a continuously evolving mechanism. To me, your second sentence - grammatically correct as it may be - seems archaic and contrived. I'm sure most readers and publishers would prefer more natural and modern language in dialogue, regardless of whether it's external or internal. In objective third person narration, you might have a bit more leeway.
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because there is no official body that defines the English language, any rule is just a matter of opinion. What you need to ask about a rule like this is whose opinion, and how significant is their opinion to what you are writing.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    keep in mind that 'creative writing' is allowed to be that... unlike academic and scientific works, where one must hew closer to the rules, if not cleaving to them completely, 'or else!'
     
  11. aeri
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    aeri New Member

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    Although I don't have any experience with this matter, I sure hope that editors would not be picky about ending sentences in preposition. Well, I guess at the same time, it is dependent on the writing style. I would say if the writing style is more focused on how people actually speak...then you're going to end up with a lot of utterances and fragments, but I don't know how that's going to fly with editors and publishers :p
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just to say that the problem arises less in academic writing anyway, because phrasal verbs are used less--a more formal word is substituted, e.g.
    This is something people can't put up with. (informal)
    This is something people are unable to tolerate. (formal)
    Also, some phrasal verbs are not separable, so you can't really say, "This is something up with which I cannot put." Put up with should stay next to each other in your sentence. The Winston quote? The end-of-sentence-preposition was his personal hobby horse, but I'd say the 'quote' is someone taking the p**s. It doesn't sound the way people of his background spoke, it's a very lower-middle class 'refained' expression, like the way the woman at the buffet in the film Brief Encounter speaks.
     
  13. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    I always heard it as "Overzealous grammarians are people up with whom I will not put."
     
  14. Word Dancer
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    Word Dancer Member

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    Ending a sentence with a preposition is something I see nothing wrong with.
     
  15. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I'm not sure if this matters much at this point, but my opinion is try not to end in a preposition but don't kill yourself over it. Clarity is the first rule of writing, and if a sentence sounds awful or isn't legible if you stick to the rule, either rewrite the sentence or put the preposition at the end. It's no biggie.
     
  16. Shane Grayson
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    Shane Grayson Member

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    Ending of prep-phrases is okay. "I can think of" is one whole phrase in that original sentence. But, if you turned the "I can think of" into its own indi-clause then no, that is wrong.

    I can think. (right)
    Getting hit by a car is the worst case scenario I can think of. (right)
    I can think of. (wrong)
     
  17. johnjmannion
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    johnjmannion New Member

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    As a writing teacher at the middle school level, I'd never accept a preposition at the end of any normal academic paper, but I'd not even pay attention to it for creative writing pieces. Trying to avoid ending with the preposition in creative writing just sounds bad. At the same time, ending every other sentence with a preposition could obviously have a negative effect too.
     
  18. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    What is the rule? I have never been taught a rule against ending sentences in prepositions or prepositional phrases... That is within the last 4 years when school was actually teaching me [I spent my middle school years just earning A's and not really trying high school pushed me a bit lol]
     
  19. noodlepower
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    noodlepower Member

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    Yeah, there is a rule floating out there that states you are not supposed to end sentences with a preposition.

    I don't pay this rule much attention except for when writing academic papers. In creative writing though this rule is completely ignored. At least by me it is. I'll let whoever edits my work decide if a sentence sounds better with or without the preposition at the end.
     
  20. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Check out Cogito's signature - that may answer your question. lol.
     
  21. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    The story's the thing. I use what feels natural to the narrative voice, if I'm explicating, and what feels natural to the character, if I'm writing dialogue.
     
  22. bsbvermont
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    bsbvermont Active Member

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    Honestly...I've got to say, once Tom Brokaw started to do that on the evening news, I figured..ah what the heck.

    There is a difference between a preposition merely "hanging out at the end of the sentence" "I don't know where you're going to" (to is the preposition) and phrasal verbs where the preposition is actually a part of the verb. Some of those are separable "He threw the ball away" could be reworded as "He threw away the ball" and voilá...no more preposition at the end of the sentence. But some phrasal verbs are non-separable...IE you can not reword "It was an idea I came across" to "It was an idea across I came".

    I'm sure this is much more than you really wanted to know. I would agree with Madhoca that either find a different verb that is a synonym but non-phrasal, or figure Tom Brokaw wasn't booed off the TV for morphing language to suit his needs.
     
  23. Jamie Senopole
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    Jamie Senopole Member

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    Phew! I'm glad most of you approve, because it just sounds more natural to me, the "incorrect" way. And if it is in dialogue, my view is really that anything goes!
     
  24. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I agree with most of the people here that it does depend on what kind of writing it is. I also tend to think however, that it's best to follow grammar rules as much as possible - for the reason that breaking them at a key moment, may be very impactful for your story. Of course, ending a sentence with a preposition doesn't lend itself to that too often but if you are careful to not end sentences that way, then one of your characters could end a sentence with prepositions and dangling participles, creating a very unique voice.

    Other than that, I'd say just rearrange your sentence to completely stay away from the issue, if possible.

    So, as for the example given two posts ago, "It was an idea I came across." I would just reword the entire sentence, moving subject to the front of the sentence, and the accusative back to its normal position at the end. That takes care of the problem. "I came across the idea." It also sounds more active than passive, which seems to be a little stronger for reading as well.

    On a side note, I'm sure deconstructionists could have a great deal of fun dealing with a preposition that is no longer a pre-position - about as much fun as Derrida had with différance and différence

    Just my 2 cents - and probably only worth 1!
     
  25. Vworp
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    Vworp Member

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    What about the sentence "he was worried about how he was coming across".

    "Across" is a preposition. Does that mean that sentence is grammatically incorrect? I don't know how to write it without ending with the word "across"!
     

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