What’s Going On?

What’s up? What are you looking for?

Ending a sentence with a preposition is usually fine in casual conversation (though you’ll never hear me say “Where are you at?” when “Where are you?” will suffice), but my students haven’t yet learned that ending with a preposition in formal writing is generally a weak choice.

If you have students ListofPrepswho need to add weight or maturity to their writing voices, a quick fix is to teach them that part of the problem lies in their habit of ending sentences with prepositions. Though not the gravest of writing sins, tacking a preposition onto the end of a sentence can make the writer’s voice in a formal document too casual. Ending with any of the “to be” verbs (is, was, were…) also ought to be avoided, but that’s a lesson for a different day.

To help bring home this point, I threw down a challenge last week to my Quarter Trio groups, assigning them to film a version of the Preposition Song and send me the recording. I gave them an instruction sheet (link below) and no class time to work on their performance. Three days later, I had a delightfully chuckle-filled evening viewing their videos. Two of my favorites are included here:

Click here for a copy of the assignment handout.
Click here to learn more about Quarter Trio groups.

I know not all of my English teacher tribe will agree, but I’m certain students’ formal writing voices are greatly improved when they break the habit of ending their sentences with prepositions. Know what I’m talking about?

Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comment section below. How about you end each sentence in your message with one of the prepositions above? See what you can come up with!

10 thoughts on “What’s Going On?

  1. I can’t do it. I just read the whole previous paragraph working to correct the sentences.

  2. I know, Ivy! Believe me, that last paragraph was hard to write, but this topic is important because poor writing is just something we shouldn’t have to put up with. 😉

  3. So glad I read your post this morning. We have our PTS conferences this week and this is ideal for the in-between lessons. I know my students will enjoy this activity and learn from it.

  4. Great, Salome, I know just what you’re going through. And you know I love to share the latest lessons I’m into. (Okay, is it time to stop yet? 🙂 )

  5. I still don’t understand what you’re getting at. I thought I knew what was up. I guess I’ll just keep on keeping on😁.

  6. Okay, LaDonna, I’ll keep working on how to get my point across. (Ack!)

  7. I was under the impression that when a word that is typically a preposition is at the end of the sentence, it instead functions as an adverb. Still annoying, but just throwing that out there.

  8. You, Melissa, definitely know what you’re speaking of. Still, I agree that we should knock it off. 🙂

  9. VictoriaH says:

    Interestingly, the grammar rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition comes from Latin rules (where it was impossible to end a sentence with a preposition). The rule about not splitting infinitives is also derived from Latin, where infinitives are one word (so “to love” in Latin is “amare”). So really, other than the fact that we as an English speaking society have decided that these are the rules we should follow, there’s no real reason WHY that should be the rule in English.

    It’s actually quite fascinating, some of the “rules” we have in English classrooms that are really not rules at all! I took a descriptivist English course years ago in undergrad that went over some of these things, and I’ve been utterly captivated by the ideas ever since.

    The wikipedia page has some decent information and leads to other interesting sources on these two particular rules (prepositions and infinitives). I personally defer to Mssrs. Strunk and White in most of my writing, and they soften the rule and appeal to whatever “sounds” most natural as the best way to write a sentence.

    I feel that as long as rules are fairly consistent and students know what to follow and what to expect, things should be okay.

  10. Indeed, Victoria, you’re correct. Strunk and White will always have our backs. 🙂

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