Some usage rules come out of a distant past when Latin grammar was presumed to be the standard, and one of those is "never split an infinitive," easy enough to obey in Latin (infinitives are one word), but not so easy in English, with its two-word infinitives. Anyway, William Shatner did what William Shakespeare feared to do, boldly splitting an infinitive on national TV ("To boldly go where no man has gone before," vs. "To be or not to be," see).
And I am not going against Captain Kirk!
But actually, I want to talk about prepositions. Another old rule is that you aren't supposed to end a sentence on a preposition. (I don't know if this is based on Latin-- do you know Latin was the ONLY class I ever failed? Really. I did get a D-- a total gift-- in Matter, Energy, and Organization, and you'll know why when I tell you I don't even know what that title means.) This rule engendered Churchill's inimitably lofty comment: "That is an impertinence up with which I shall not put." But you know, it's not a bad rule completely. That is, sometimes a sentence-ending prep is fine, and sometimes it's a signal that your thought is incomplete.
(What's a preposition? It's one of those usually little words that describe some connection-- usually time or space-- between two things. These are not always logical-- I notice that a whole generation logically says "on accident"-- why not, when there's "on purpose"? And in NYC, they stand "on line" where most everywhere else, we stand "in line". This is the hardest thing for non-native speakers to get, even harder than articles. After all, a native speaker would probably never use the wrong article -- a for an, maybe, but that's more a dialect thing. But even the most adept native speaker occasionally messes up on a preposition, and they can differ by region too. Anyway, there are lots of prepositions, and most of the constructions that use them are not too complex. In fact, they'd be utterly ignored if we weren't all concerned about That Rule.)
The first exception is the "verb+"-- many English verbs take a preposition. Usually the preposition is the distinguishing factor: Look up, look down, look over, look away-- those are all different actions, and so really, though the base verb is "look," each compound term means something different because of the preposition. The preposition word is being used as an adverb, modifying the verb. Part of the eternal growability of English is that many verbs can be mutated by adding a preposition as a modifier. It's okay (though not always strong) to end a sentence on one of these compound predicates:
She looked up.
It's really ending on the verb, right?
Now I recently came across a great example of a preposition-ended sentence. It's from the song with the beautiful melody but ugly name-- Big Log by Robert Plant.
My love is in league with the freeway
Its passion will ride, as the cities fly by
"Fly by" is one of those compound predicates-- "fly by" or "fly away" or "fly over"-- they're all diffferent. "Fly by" is particular evocative in this song, as it's exactly what happens on a freeway-- the cities fly by-- or rather, we do, in the cars. This is, btw, a terrific example of an extended metaphor (love is like a freeway, being in love is like being on the run), with wonderful uses of "car" motifs like the rearview mirror:
Eyes in the mirror, still expecting they'll come
Sensing too well, when the journey is done
There is no turning back, no. There is no turning back, on the run.
Extended metaphors are probably more effective in poetry and in song than in fiction, but boy, would it impress me to see as graceful a metaphor as this in prose.
Also there's a later line that never gets transcribed right ("should I rest for awhile on the side" or "should I rest for awhile and decide" are the common transcriptions, but listen)--
My love is exceeding the limit,
Red-eyed and fevered with the hum of the miles
Distance and longing, my thoughts do collide
Should I rest for awhile beside?
Probably there's an elliptical "you" or some other object of that preposition (beside the road?), but leaving it elliptical not only completes the rhyme, but also focuses the attention on the singer's question here-- should he rest? And it's much sexier too-- resting beside. And remember that the last word in a sentence is a power position, and so ending on "beside" can make that position powerful. (I suspect that getting rid of the object there, the "you" or "the road," makes "beside" an adverb, answering the "where" question... funny how a word can change role that way!)
Anyway, lovely song, lovely metaphor, such control in the writing!
So back to prepositions. Here's a BAD preposition-end, and here's where I say take this as a clue that something is missing (paraphrased, but same preposition):
The mutineers were made an example of.
What's wrong? Well, it's a passive sentence-- "the mutineers" is supposed to be the object of that preposition, but it's in the subject position. The passive construction means that the sentence has to end on "of" because the object is being used elsewhere. The problem usually with the passive construction is that it lets the true actor (who ever did the making of example) off the hook. There are reasons to do that (if you don't know the true actor-- "She was murdered at 1 am"-- or the true actor isn't important-- "She was buried Tuesday at Forest Hills Cemetery"), but usually the actor of the action belongs in the subject position, and if you do that, you probably won't have that orphaned preposition:
The Navy made an example of the mutineers.
That is, the prep-ending is a clue that the thought is incomplete. In fact, I would probably add the "how"-- how did the Navy make an example of the mutineers? (unless I wanted to be mysterious).
Point is, the rule is only a suggestion, okay? It's based in real logic-- generally, a preposition is followed by an object, so look and see if you've misplaced or ignored the object. But because there are allowances for exceptions, you have more flexibility here-- you can see what meaning each possibility creates. And of course, violating a rule is always subversively exciting, and stop laughing. Okay, it's not as subversive as shooting heroin or swimming nude, but for a writer, it's pretty thrilling.
So think of it this way-- the more rules you understand, the more you can violate. :)