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A preposition, a specific type of adposition, is a word describing a relationship between two nouns. These include words such as "on", "to", "beneath", "before", etc.
As noted in the link, the word is a lot more complex than it seems, and not every use of the words that seem like a preposition, actually is a preposition. But the most well known thing about them is that you supposedly cannot end sentences with them (also known as stranding a preposition).
This is actually applying Latin grammar rules to English, and while some of those can actually apply in the latter language (like no double negatives), this one doesn't (same with splitting infinitives. Many sentences just don't flow in English if this rule is shoehorned in (which means ending on a preposition is bad when it breaks the flow, not this rule).
In fiction, there are different reactions to this. Who states the rule might be accused of being a Grammar Nazi. Or those called on for doing this might reply in a snarky manner. Or those called on might instead try their best to avoid breaking this rule. Basically it's whichever is funnier.
Can often invoke In Which a Trope Is Described, the title of which is the grammatically correct expression of 'a trope is described in'.
See also Prepositional Phrase Equals Coolness to compare with.
- In Beavis and Butthead Do America, Agent Flemming admonishes a fellow ATF agent for doing this. That agent then ties his sentences in knots trying to get around this.
- In Designing Women Charlene tells this old anecdote:
"I asked this Northern woman, 'Where are ya'll from?' And she said, 'I'm from a place where we don't end our sentences with prepositions.' So I said, 'Okay, where are ya'll from, bitch?'"
- There's an episode of Frasier where Martin is writing someone a letter and Niles, reading over his shoulder, corrects him for ending a sentence with a preposition. We see Martin, rather annoyed, writing something on the paper and underlining it, gesturing to Niles, to which Niles replies, "Not to be technical, but 'off' is a preposition too."
- In another episode Frasier corrects a caller who uses the word "literally" in the complete wrong way, bringing said caller to get angry about people who "nit-pick on your grammar when they come to you for help".
Doug: THAT'S WHAT I GOT A PROBLEM WITH! *hangs up'
Frasier: ...I think what he means is, that is a thing with which he has a problem.
- In his column, Peter Filichia objected to a lyric from "Great Big Stuff" because he felt that the character wouldn't use a sentence that ended with a preposition. The composer later wrote to him and defended his lyric by saying the line just made him laugh.
- In an episode of Cheers, Diane dreams that Sam's boorishness has just been an act for the bar patrons; he's actually cultured and erudite. As he plays her a classical piano piece of his own composition, she embraces him and says, "Forget the piano. Let me be the instrument you play on." Sam's response: "Diane, do you realize you just ended that proposition...with a preposition?"
- This is a Running Gag between those two, first used in "The Tortelli Tort". When Ed threatens to sue the bar over Carla assaulting him, Sam tries to convince him that Carla is getting therapy for her anger problems:
Sam: She's trying to become the kind of waitress that you'd enjoy being waited on by.
Diane: (whispering) You just ended that sentence with two prepositions...
Sam: Don't you have customers to deal with?
Diane: That ended with a preposition, too...
Sam: Don't you have customers to deal with, mullet head?
- This is a running gag in Kingdom of Loathing, even including sentences where the word isn't being used as a preposition.
- In one of the Order of the Stick comics that appeared in Dragon magazine, Vaarsuvius rages at a pair of undead who end every single sentence with a preposition. When Durkon reproaches him for acting like an uptight English teacher, Vaarsuvius replies, "What is this English you speak of?"
- One Stargate SG-1 episode has one of the villains wondering why O'Neill isn't doing the quips he's become famous for. Later on, O'Neill obliged.
Her'ak: No matter what you have endured, you have never experienced the likes of what Anubis is capable of.
O'Neill: You ended that sentence with a preposition. Bastard.
- Of course, this also serves to further shine a light on the fact that the show has Aliens Speaking English.
- This is what sparks the hilarity in Downfall of Grammar.
- in 30 Rock Tracy Jordan tells an intern 'You shouldn't end a sentence with a proposition at'.
- Y: The Last Man. Yorick, as an English major, is somewhat pedantic about language usage. Even during his final declaration of love.
Yorick: "I knew I wanted to keep living in any world that you were a part of. But that was hard to admit to myself, and not just because it ended with a preposition."
- In one episode of The Drew Carey Show, Mr. Wick threatens to fire the next employee who ends a sentence with a preposition, immediately following the threat by saying, "Now, where has Mimi gotten to? (Beat) ...he inquired!"
- In Canadian Bacon, one of the Mounties tells the heroes to "go back to where you came from." The other Mountie tells him that you can't end your sentence with a preposition, and proceed to debate this while the heroes escape.
Mountie #1: Oh really. Well, what would you say?
Mountie #2: Well, I guess I'd say either, "Go back from where you came", or the preferred Queen's English, "Go back, thee, from whence thou came."
- Eugene Meltsner of Adventures in Odyssey adheres to this. In one episode, consistently losing chess games to the local janitor has begun taking a toll on his sanity, and his friends are alarmed when he ends a sentence with a preposition. His reaction?
"That's impossible! Prepositions are not words I end sentences with!"
- In the movie With Honors a homeless man attending a class at Harvard (long story) gets in an argument with the Professor. So when he wants to leave, this exchange happens:
Simon Wilder: Which door do I leave from?
Proffesor Pitkannan: At Harvard we don't end our sentences with prepositions.
Simon Wilder: Okay. Which door do I leave from, asshole?
- A similar exchange occurred in some greeting card:
Woman 1: Where's your birthday party at?
Woman 2: Don't end a sentence with a preposition.
- inside the card*
Woman 1: Where's your birthday party at, bitch?
- In The Big Bang Theory, a fifteen-year-old North Korean physics genius who has only been speaking English for one and a half years pulls this one out. Leonard tells him he speaks English well, and he responds by condescendingly saying that Leonard does as well, except for the fact that he regularly ends his sentences with prepositions. Then Leonard asks, "What are you talking about?"