Prepositions Are Not to End Sentences With
A preposition, a specific type of adposition
, is a word describing a relationship between two nouns. These include words such as "on", "to", "beneath", "before", etc.
As noted in the link, the word is a lot more complex than it seems, and not every use of a word that looks like a preposition is one. But the most well-known thing about them is that you supposedly
cannot end sentences with them (also known as stranding a preposition).
This is actually applying Latin grammar rules to English, and while some of those can actually apply in the latter language (like no double negatives), this one doesn't (same with splitting infinitives, which is impossible
in Latin). Many sentences just don't flow in English if this rule is shoehorned in, and evidence has been shown that ending sentences with prepositions has been in the language since Anglo-Saxon. The blind insistence that Latin represented the "perfect" language and all other language grammars must be shoe-horned into Latin grammatical conventions bedevilled foreign language learning in Great Britain until well into the 20th century. Even utterly unrelated languages like Irish and Scottish Gaelic were forced into a Latinate grammatical analysis they were not intended for. And in schools, "English Grammar" in practice meant applying Latin structure to a Germanic language, much to the bewilderment of pupils. This was the case even into the 1970's in many schools.
In fiction, there are different reactions to this. The person who states the rule might be accused of being a Grammar Nazi
. Or those called on for doing this might reply in a snarky manner, a common spin being repeating the sentence but concluding with an insult ("Where do you come from, bitch
?"). Or those called on might instead try their best to avoid breaking this rule. Basically it's whichever is funnier
If someone tries to call you on this, tell them that the Oxford University English Department says it's perfectly acceptable, and that you recognize no higher authority. And then say something that ends in "off".
Can often invoke In Which a Trope Is Described
, the title of which is the pedant's version of 'a trope is described in'.
Compare with Prepositional Phrase Equals Coolness
and Strange Syntax Speaker
- Y: The Last Man: Yorick, as an English major, is somewhat pedantic about language usage. Even during his final declaration of love.
Yorick: "I knew I wanted to keep living in any world that you were a part of. But that was hard to admit to myself, and not just because it ended with a preposition."
- Gold Key's adaptation of The Inspector cartoon "Le Quiet Squad" has Sgt. Deux-Deux barging in on the Inspector:
Deux-Deux: Inspector! I have spotted something you may be interested in!
Inspector: Sergeant! How many times must I tell you...never end a sentence with a preposition! You should have said "in which you may be interested!"
- In Designing Women Charlene tells this old anecdote:
"I asked this Northern woman, 'Where are y'all from?' And she said, 'I'm from a place where we don't end our sentences with prepositions.' So I said, 'Okay, where are y'all from, bitch?'"
- In an episode of Cheers, Diane dreams that Sam's boorishness has just been an act for the bar patrons; he's actually cultured and erudite. As he plays her a classical piano piece of his own composition, she embraces him and says, "Forget the piano. Let me be the instrument you play on." Sam's response: "Diane, do you realize you just ended that proposition...with a preposition?" This is a Running Gag between those two, first used in "The Tortelli Tort". When Ed threatens to sue the bar over Carla assaulting him, Sam tries to convince him that Carla is getting therapy for her anger problems:
Sam: She's trying to become the kind of waitress that you'd enjoy being waited on by.
Diane: You just ended that sentence with two prepositions...
Sam: Don't you have customers to deal with?
Diane: That ended with a preposition, too...
Sam: Don't you have customers to deal with, mullet head?
- One Stargate SG-1 episode has one of the villains wondering why O'Neill isn't doing the quips he's become famous for. Later on, O'Neill obliged.
Her'ak: No matter what you have endured, you have never experienced the likes of what Anubis is capable of.
O'Neill: You ended that sentence with a preposition. Bastard.
- In 30 Rock Tracy Jordan tells an intern "You shouldn't end a sentence with a proposition at".
- In one episode of The Drew Carey Show, Mr. Wick threatens to fire the next employee who ends a sentence with a preposition, immediately following the threat by saying, "Now, where has Mimi gotten to? (Beat) ...He inquired!"
- In The Big Bang Theory episode "The Jerusalem Duality", fifteen-year-old North Korean physics genius Dennis Kim, who has only been speaking English for a year and a half, pulls this one out. Leonard tells Dennis that he speaks English well, only to receive the condescending response that Leonard does as well, except for the fact that he regularly ends his sentences with prepositions. Then Leonard asks, "What are you talking about?", and Dennis quickly lampshades this (thence to become Sheldon's new Sitcom Archnemesis).
- In one of the Red Dwarf script books, Grant Naylor say that they're often asked "Where do you get your ideas from?" and that this question always annoys them because it ends with a preposition "and as we all know, that's not something you should end a sentence with. Damn."
- In Two and a Half Men combined with Flipping the Bird:
Alan: Jake, why did you flip Miss Pasternak off?
Pasternak: Excuse me. We don't end our sentences with prepositions. We say, "Why did you flip off Miss Pasternak?"
Charlie: I think that answers your question.
- From Comedy Central's The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, when Bill Engvall is telling "Here's your sign" anecdotes:
Larry The Cable Guy:
Hey, tell 'em about the one you done did over at the whatcha-call-her. Jeff Foxworthy:
[pause] Yeah, Bill. Tell 'em about the one you done did over at the whatcha-call-her. Ron White:
He just ended a sentence in nine prepositions. Bill:
He's an over-achiever. Larry:
I don't know about all that, but... (Bill cracks up laughing)
- An early Dilbert strip had a woman saying, "Up I hic!" In the last panel, Dogbert clarified that she's an English teacher.
- This is a running gag in Kingdom of Loathing, even including sentences where the word isn't being used as a preposition.
- In Beavis And Butthead Do America, Agent Flemming admonishes a fellow ATF agent for doing this. That agent then ties his sentences in knots trying to get around this.