Written by Her Mighty Ubergeekness
This is a topic I’ve really wanted to write on! Hmm…I wonder how many words I’ll have to look up. Is Lulu the person I should submit this article to? Oh? That’s not anyone I know of.
(Did those sentences just drive you batty? Great! Read on, my friend.)
Prepositions are such poor, misunderstood creatures. The fussier of us grammarians can get downright insulted if we see them used at the end of sentence. It’s almost as bad as when we see sentences begin with conjunctions (and, but)! (*Note: Constructing a sentence with an opening conjunction isn’t absolutely evil either, but we’ll discuss that another time.)
Anyway, it seems we have a prepositional quandary. Worry not, we can clear some things up right now.
What’s a preposition: A word that indicates loction or position in the physical world. They can also be used to show a location in time. Examples: About, above, among, apart from, below, beyond, except, on, inside, regarding, through, within… the list goes on.
Is use of a preposition at the end of a sentence incorrect? Not usually. Generally speaking, if the cause makes sense, it’s fine. Why? Because they’re not even prepositions when used this way, they’re usually adverbial particles and part of phrasal verbs. (**or a prepositional verb, but again, that’s another discussion)
Hold <- infinitive form of our nifty little verb.
Hold on <- phrasal verb!
Hold out <- another phrasal verb!
The definition of the first line is "grasp, carry, or support with one's arms or hands."
See what happens when we add the little preposition, "on"? The definition can change to "maintain one's grip, cling." "On," in this case, is the adverbial particle. Without it, the definition changes. "Out" is another preposition. The definition when paired with "hold" becomes "to continue to resist" or "to present or proffer as something unattainable."
An even better example:
to put up
to put up with
to look up
to look over
Then there’s also Churchill’s point; once, he was criticized for ending a sentence in a preposition. His reply? “This is the kind of impertinence up with which I shall not put.” Allow me to rephrase: Moving the preposition in relation to the rest of the clause can often sound more ridiculous than not. It can sound stuffy, and that can be a bad thing depending on what we’re writing.
Well, that’s the gist of it, folks. I hope it helps. I’m done with my soapbox for now; I’m getting off! (Har-har, see what I did there?)