In school our English teachers always told us, “Never end a sentence with a preposition.”
TRUE? – Yes, this has been an English grammar rule for hundreds of years.
Like everyone else, I assumed my teachers knew what they were talking about and didn’t question this rule…until I took a class called The History of English for my degree in Composition and Linguistics. Then I realized what the real question should be:
- English is a Germanic language
- In German, they have something called separable-prefix verbs, which are a combination of a preposition and a verb. When you use these verbs, you put the prefix at the end of the sentence and use the verb as usual.
- In a similar manner, English has verbs that work with a preposition (talk about, come from, go to, put up with, etc.)
verb = mitkommen (come with)
Kommen Sie mit? (Are you coming with?)
SO HOW DID THIS BECOME AN ENGLISH GRAMMAR RULE?
- When the Normans conquered England in 1066, French (a Latin-based language) became the language of the elite.
- Latin was the language of the Church.
- In an attempt to make English more like Latin/French, well-known writers in the 17th century imposed Latin grammar rules on English.
- In Latin, you cannot end a sentence with a preposition.
VOILA! English ends up with a rule that doesn’t work for its structure.
To demonstrate how forcing yourself to follow this rule can cause strange grammatical gyrations, here is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill: “This is the sort of English up with which I cannot put.”
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