prepositions (placement relative to objects)
The requirement that a preposition be followed by the words that it governs, commonly attributed to the 18th century Latinists, is generally regarded as superstition by modern commentators. In fact, it was probably never intended as a categorical prescription. Robert Lowth, the 18th century grammarian most closely associated with the conservative view on this matter, observed that prepositions are "fo called becaufe they are commonly put before the words to which they are applied", but took a fairly moderate position regarding the popular practice of ending a sentence with a preposition:
This is an idiom, which our language is ftrongly inclined to [as, apparently, is Lowth himfelf!]: it prevails in common converfation, and fuits very well with the familiar ftyle in writing: but the placing of the prepofition before the relative is more graceful, as well as more perfpicuous, and agrees much better with the folemn and elevated ftyle.
Examples in support of either side of the controversy are easily constructed. The danger of strict adherence to the rule is illustrated by Churchill's famous riposte:
That is the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I cannot put.Note, however, that up is an adverb rather than a preposition in this context; it must be assumed that Churchill intentionally ignored this distinction in order to sharpen his point, having judged his example to be more compelling than this equally compliant alternative:
That is the sort of arrant pedantry with which I cannot put up.On the other side we have the textbook example of the child's question to the parent who brings to his bedroom an unwelcome book on the subject of Australia: *
What did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to from out of about Down Under up for?"But perhaps the most persuasive argument in support of the stricture is that it serves as a safeguard against undisciplined syntax: when a preposition is followed closely by its object, the object is guaranteed to exist. Consider the following piece of nonsense, in which the listener is challenged to guess the object of His late Majesty's allusion: *
And that's the sadness of the whole situation: that my father dedicated his whole life to achieving peace, which we did between Jordan and Israel, but, as he alluded to, unless there's a solution to the Palestinians, can you imagine if 20 years from now my son is sitting here and you show a tape of maybe our discussions or my father's discussions?