The Curiosity Shop

Never End A Sentence With A Preposition!

Prepositions are those little connective words like "in", "with ", "to", and the like. When I was a kid adults often said, "Never end a sentence with a preposition.". Unfortunately the advice stopped there. Nobody ever said what to do instead.

There are fads in English, probably in most languages. Though people had been saying "I couldn't care less" for years, somebody got mixed up somewhere along the line and started saying "I COULD care less", the opposite of what they meant, and it became popular for a while and swept the country. "Have a good one" is another fad of recent years. People still say that one. And somebody, trying to avoid ending sentences with a preposition, and probably not knowing what to do instead just dropped it, leaving the sentence incomplete in many cases. Now that has become a fad too. It's one that particularly annoys me and in a lot of cases it comes out sounding pretty silly too.

So lets look at some examples. For each I'll give:
1) a "correct" way to say something,
2) the common phrasing with the preposition on the end, and
3) what is currently in fashion among the ignorant.
That will be followed by a comment or two about the last, incorrect form of the sentence. I can't help it.

Example 1

1) Up there is the tree house in which they like to play.
2) Up there is the tree house they like to play in.
3) Up there is the tree house they like to play.

They must be pretty good musicians to be able to play a tree house.

Example 2

1) Java is the language with which I prefer to program.
2) Java is the language I prefer to program with.
3) Java is the language I prefer to program.

I don't know about you, but I program computers, not languages.

Example 3

1) The oak tree is the one in which they climb.
2) The oak tree is the one they climb in.
3) The oak tree is the one they climb.

This one works. The meaning may be slightly different, but sometimes you get lucky.

Example 4

1) The kids thought it was a good bed on which to jump.
2) The kids thought it was a good bed to jump on.
3) The kids thought it was a good bed to jump.

If the kids can jump the bed, can they jump the fence? How about tall buildings at a single bound? :-)

I hope you have the idea. Leaving out the preposition can totally change the meaning of a sentence.

Using "with which" and the like can make a sentence seem overly formal, stilted even. Leaving out the preposition can cause you to say something you didn't intend. Depending on the situation and to whom you are talking (i.e. who you're talking to) ending a sentence with a preposition may be just what you want. While form is important, communication is more important. More often than not, we are speaking to communicate, not to show that we know how to follow every grammatical rule. Still, if you break many more rules than your friends do when they speak they will think you're awfully ignorant.

And finally, my advice to those who would tell us what's wrong with our grammar is, "All advice on what not to do should be accompanied with instructions on how to do it correctly."

Hope this helps, and yes, my mother was an English teacher. But she doesn't have a computer and will never read this :-)

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