Monday, February 27, 2012

Reading past the rules

Some of us were discussing the "rules" which are based on archaic or even Latin grammar ("Do not split an infinitive, and yes, I mean you, Captain Kirk, with your to boldly go!" "Do not end on a preposition!).

I would say don't believe in the "rule" about not ending with a preposition. However, I do want to point out that the end of the sentence is a real power position, and it might infuse more drama into our prose
if we tried not to end on weak words like "of".

He was the one she was thinking of.
She was thinking of him.

Him, in a romance novel at least, it a strong word, and a good place to end a thought. Of? Not so much.
Not to mention, of course, the whole passive v. active thing. ("He" is really the object of the preposition, but in the first sentence, "he" is put in the subject role, and that causes a passive construction.)

That is, forget the rule notion, but it's not a bad guideline to rewrite sentences that end on "of" or "to" or "by," just to see if it's possible to end on a stronger word.

Other examples of ending on a preposition? Prepositions are, ideally, supposed to be followed by a noun (the "position" part indicates that). But there are all sorts of English constructions that have prepositions without nouns to follow.



green_knight said...

I take issue with 'passive' because there's no passive voice in the the first sentence at all. 'He was the one being thought of' would be a passive voice construction, and not appropriate.

As for the other two, it really depends on the context. She was thinking of him is direct: and can be a fairly weak statement: she was thinking of him, her unpaid electricity bill, and the fact that she had forgotten to take out the garbage again. He was the one she was thinking of indicates that of all the men she might be thinking of, *he* was the one who left the greatest impression. (I don't feel that the sentence ends on 'of' - it ends on 'thinking of' which happens to be written in two words, but the 'of' is nearly invisible.

If I wanted to make the sentence stronger, I'd go for 'he was the one she missed' or something similar.

Edittorrent said...
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Edittorrent said...

GK, maybe we're defining "passive" differently, because by my definition (when the object is in the subject position), that's a passive construction:

He was the one she was thinking of.
"She" is the subject.
"He" is the object of the preposition, therefore, object in the subject position. The fact that "She" is also in there doesn't make it an active sentence. But you must have a different definition?

I know you have a different take on everything! You always like to change my examples to something else entirely, which shows how variable writers are. Taking issue with it, LOL.