Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've been doing a fair amount of "grammar" study lately, partly just to refresh myself and partly for an article I'm working on. Last night I was reading up on prepositions, and I thought I'd post a bit here about them. (BTW, thanks to everyone for their comments on my "tense" post. It was a very helpful discussion.)

Prepositions are words such as “in,” “to,” “with,” “at,” “for,” “from,” “upon,” “among,” “between,” “behind,” and “about.” They indicate the relationship between a noun or pronoun and some other word in the sentence. He undressed behind the hedge is an example of this usage. “He undressed” is connected to “hedge” by “behind.”

It is a common belief, but a wrong one, that a writer should never end a sentence with a preposition. The most likely reason for the belief is that in casual speech people often add an unnecessary preposition to the end of a sentence. Where should we go to, or, Where have you been at are examples of this. The prepositions, “to” and “at” are not needed here. But, what movie are you going to is perfectly fine. The “to” is necessary and putting it at the end saves you from such obfuscating constructions as "what movie is it to which you are going."


Donnetta said...

Charles: Nice comments about the prepositions. And true. Thanks for the clarifications.

I just tagged you with a meme. (ducking) When you get a chance, run over and read my blog. (although I see blogger is slow in posting it for me) Then, do whatever you want to with it!!


Erik Donald France said...

Good work, Charles. This is helpful for my basic writing class -- three weeks to go for summer classes.

Susan Miller said...

I remember when Slater brought him this list of words that he was supposed to memorize. It was all the prepositions and agonizing for him. So we got out a book and started recognizing the prepositions in sentences rather than attempting to put some long list of words to memory. It seemed to work better that he get a "feel" of where they would be, and it worked.

the walking man said...

I always thought a preposition was something like "Hey baby wanna go out on a date?"



Bernita said...

Some grammar rules apply only to formal writing, not colloquial conversation.

Sidney said...

Sounds like a good idea. I like to think it's all deeply embedded in the back of my brain, but I may have lost a gerund or two.

Shauna Roberts said...

When a sentence ends with a preposition, that's often a sign the preposition is part of a phrasal verb—a verb that combines with an adverb or preposition to create a single unit of meaning. For example, "fool" as a verb means one thing, and ""fool around," "fool into," and "fool with" mean something different.

Phrasal verbs are quite common in English. I have an 800+ page dictionary of phrasal verbs that contains 7,634 such combinations. (I use it for copyediting; people tend to make up their own phrasal verbs, and the dictionary lets me know what the correct combination is.)

Many of the erroneous grammar "rules" people learned in school (such as not splitting infinitives) derive from 18th-century grammarians, who used Latin as the model for English grammar. (Because Latin was obviously superior as a language, they thought.) So they decreed that one shouldn't split infinitives in English because infinitives are one (unsplittable) word in Latin. I believe the "rule" about not ending sentence with a preposition is one of those left-over Latinate things.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Charles, I have 37 scars. One of them is affectionately known as the Cherry Cobbler.