Prepositions are some of the most commonly misused forms of grammar in the English language. While not technically a rule of the English language, and more a rule of the dead language of Latin, prepositions are intended to be used directly before nouns, pronouns, or other substantives, to form phrases that serve as verb modifiers, nouns, or adjectives to represent other relationships. While not widely used, the rule is/was an attempt to conform to the rules of Latin in the earlier centuries of English language. However it is not popularly adopted. Often times in everyday conversations, we commonly end sentences with prepositions. We have done this enough to a point where it is seemingly commonplace to see and hear a sentence concluded with a preposition. However, this is technically incorrect. But why? I understand that rules are rules but, for the love of God, sometimes ending phrases with prepositions has to be better than their “grammatically correct” counterpart.
This is no better illustrated through one of my favorite TV shows, The Last Man on Earth, on Fox. The clip displayed by the tweet from the show’s Twitter account occurs when one of the characters, Carol, pulls a gun on the other one, Phil. He frantically exclaims, “Carol! What do you need that gun out for?”And while holding him at gunpoint, she “corrects” his grammar to “Out for what do you need that gun?!” as seen by the tweet. This is preposterous. How in the misconstrued world of language and grammar is that sentence more grammatically correct than ending one with a preposition?
While I might validate the reasoning behind the proper grammatical use of a preposition in a sentence, I by no means agree with it. Prepositions are designed to be a precursor to an ensuing noun or pronoun or similar functional. Using them as a conclusion of a sentence is, by definition, incorrect. The “dangling preposition,” as it is known by, is a widely used phenomena. As a society, it is more adopted than its proper counterpart. While it might be wrong, it sounds so right.
Preceding this scene, Phil and Carol first meet and she initially pulls the gun on him. It was their first experience with each other, and Phil’s first experience with a grammatical headache. He pleads with Carol that there is nothing to be afraid of, hoping he can soothe Carol’s fears. An extremely common phrase exclaimed by Phil, it found no common ground between him and Carol, only further expanding their differences. Carol replies, correcting Phil, and the interaction is shown through the gifs:
Further exemplified throughout the remainder of the episode of The Last Man on Earth, there is a following scene in which Phil and Carol attempt to hash out their differences and begin to form a connection. Disgruntled, Phil says to “just get this over with.” If you are quick at identifying dangling prepositions by now, you will realize that this is another example of one. Carol immediately corrects him as if it was a sixth sense of hers, replying “Over with which to get this.” Really? Over with which to get this? That is grammatically correct?
While I do not necessarily understand what is considered proper according to the Latin rules of language, as the English complement conformed to, it is clear that while technically incorrect, the use of a dangling preposition is widespread in the English language and society. We will find that others understand us increasingly more, the less proper we speak, to a certain extent of course. And one of those laws that should be willingly sacrificed to gain understanding, is not ending sentences in prepositions. For all those that have not seen The Last Man on Earth, I highly recommend it; you can find several examples of dangling prepositions and their corrected equivalents, whether they sound right or not.