The 17th-Century Preposition Rule

03 Dec 2018

THE 17TH-CENTURY PREPOSITION RULE

If you are a stickler for correct grammar (or happen to know someone who is), then you have probably heard the rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition.

But where did this rule come from? (or, perhaps we should be asking “from where did this rule come?”) And is it really a rule? Or is that just a myth?

According to this article from Atlas Obscura, it all goes back to 17th Century England, when a writer named John Dryden criticized playwright, Ben Johnson, for ending a sentence with a preposition. Dryden later advised a young writer that “In the correctness of the English I remember I hinted somewhat of concludding [sic] your sentences with prepositions or conjunctions sometimes, which is not elegant, as in your first sentence.”

And, while he is only documented to have stated this on those two occasions, for some reason his criticism stuck and turned into a well-known rule of “proper English.”

So, next time your grammar expert friend reminds you to not end your sentence with a preposition, you will know who to thank (or blame).

Author
Watercooler Writer 
Ever wonder what writers talk about? Our writers are always sharing something new with each other; from the latest and greatest in apps and technology to grammar rules and the origin of certain words. With our Watercooler Writer series, we have taken our very best finds, and are sharing them with you.

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