How to Fix Dangling Prepositions - Owlcation - Education
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How to Fix Dangling Prepositions

Marie studied at Michigan State University four years in English (creative writing). She writes content, poetry, and stories.

Prepositions--don't leave them dangling!

Prepositions--don't leave them dangling!

Although speech is the language and language is alive, ever changing, good writing follows certain rules and has more permanency than speech.The written word can serve as a reference tool. A sentence might include one or more prepositions, words that take objects (nouns) to complete an idea.

If you've ever been disciplined by a parent, you may recall something similar to the following conversation.

"I told you to clean your room."

"Yes, but--"

"But nothing! Now go do it."

Your mother was completing the preposition "but" with the noun "nothing."

"But" and other prepositions at the end of a sentence beg completion. They leave the reader hanging and asking who?, what?, where?, when? or why?

Simple Prepositions

Prepositions with one syllable or few letters are the most common. "Down," "round," and "till" can serve different sentence functions, depending on their use.

A-L

N-R

S-W

at

near

save

but

of

since

by

off

through

down

on

till

for

out

to

from

over

up

in

past

with

like

round

~~~

Examples of Dangling Prepositions

Here are two examples of sentences ending in a dangling preposition that appeared in a professional article, along with examples of how the sentences might be corrected. In each correction, the simplest expression appears followed by one that more closely uses the words of the original.


Incorrect: Our reaction to failure is something we pay little attention to.

Acceptable Solutions:

We pay little attention to our reaction to failure.

Our reaction to failure is something to which we pay little attention.


Incorrect:

Find a confidant who has survived the same setback you are suffering through.

Acceptable Solutions:

Find a confidant who has survived the same setback as you.

Find a confidant who has survived the same setback as you are suffering.

how-to-avoid-dangling-prepositions

Speech and the Vernacular

Informal speech uses prepositions frequently. In writing, most of these prepositions can be eliminated without harm to the meaning of the sentence. When writing dialog or giving a direct quote, however, prepositions and dangling prepositions remain.


Speech: I'm going clean up this mess.

Written: I'm going to clean this mess.

Written Quote: "I'm going to clean up this mess."


Speech: I have no idea where I'm going to.

Written: I have no idea where I'm going.

Written Quote: "I have no idea where I'm going to."


When a story, such as a personal account is being written, the author's vernacular helps to develop his or her unique style. If the vernacular is excessive, however, the reader may have a difficult time following the story. So, in creative writing, a little rule bending is essentially akin to poetic license. In article writing, the author will eliminate informal speech for clarity to appeal to the greatest number of readers.

Prepositions are like building blocks that add information to the sentence.

Prepositions are like building blocks that add information to the sentence.

Compound Prepositions

Compound prepositions are two prepositions combined. I have an included those with adapted Latin prefixes in this list.

A-Am

Ar-Conc

Cons-O

R-W

aboard

around

considering

regarding

about

before

despite

throughout

above

behind

during

toward

across

below

except

under

after

beneath

excepting

underneath

against

beside

inside

until

along

besides

into

unto

alongside

between

onto

upon

amid

beyond

opposite

within

among

concerning

outside

without

Prepositions That Begin Sentences

Many compound prepositions and their objects work well to begin a clause to start a sentence. Such construction can provide a transition for a new paragraph.


Examples of introductory clauses:

Before the turn of the century, women began to change their style of dress.

Except for an occasional breeze, the air was as still as stone.


"Before" and "except" are prepositions introducing the sentences. Don't leave them dangling!

Incorrect: Women began to change their style of dress in the century before.

Incorrect: The air was still as stone, an occasional breeze except.*

*Such construction might occur in a poem and be accepted as poetic license.


So, here you see that prepositions can begin a sentence, but should not end a sentence when writing an article for publication.

Phrases made of two or more words can function as prepositions.

Phrases made of two or more words can function as prepositions.

Phrasal Prepositions

Phrasal prepositions are the most complex type of preposition.

A-D

E-I

N-U

according to

except for

near to

across from

from among

on account of

alongside of

from between

on behalf of

along with

from under

on top of

apart from

in addition to

onside of

as far as

in behalf of

out of

aside from

in front of

over to

away from

in place of

owing to

back of

in regard to

prior to

because of

inside of

subsequent to

by means of

in spite of

together with

down from

instead of

up to

Ways to Fix a Dangling Preposition

  1. Delete the preposition if the meaning of the sentence doesn't change.
  2. Add a noun and any desired modifiers to serve as the preposition's object.
  3. Complete the preposition and move the words to where the meaning is clearer or at the beginning to work as a transition.
  4. Reword the sentence so no preposition is required.

A Final Word

After reading this subject, you are now more aware of what prepositions are and have seen a few examples of them in sentences. A preposition is completed by an object (noun or pronoun) and any modifiers to the noun. An object answers the question of who, what, when, where, or why.

When correcting a dangling preposition, you can sometimes just delete the preposition, add an object (perhaps with modifiers), add an object and move the preposition's phrase to somewhere else in the sentence, such as the beginning to serve as a transition, or reword the sentence so no preposition is required.

Omitting dangling prepositions from your article writing improves the quality of the piece and is easier for the reader to comprehend. ***

A Song to Help You Remember Prepositions

How much have you learned?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. "The Journey to the Center of the Earth" is an adventure movie.
    • The prepositions in the above sentence are "to" and "of."
    • "To" is the only preposition in the sentence.
    • There are no prepostions in this sentence.
  2. Which sentence has a dangling preposition?
    • King Lear is a Shakespearean play.
    • Regarding the contract, you should not sign before reading it.
    • He said, "Come on in."
  3. Which series below contains only prepositions?
    • about, above, beyond
    • alter, ask, apart
    • opposition, upon, without
  4. "In addition to" is an example of
    • a simple preposition.
    • a compound preposition.
    • a phrasal preposition.
  5. When trying to correct a dangling preposition, you can
    • sometimes just delete the preposition.
    • add an object, or noun, to complete the preposition.
    • Add an object and move the preposition to a different place in the sentence.
    • rewrite the sentence so no prepostion is required.
    • all of the above

Answer Key

  1. The prepositions in the above sentence are "to" and "of."
  2. He said, "Come on in."
  3. about, above, beyond
  4. a phrasal preposition.
  5. all of the above

Resource Credits

I constructed the preposition lists with the guidance of the following book.

Sebranek, Meyer, and Kemper; Write for College: A Student Handbook; Write Source (Houghton Mifflin), Wilmington, Massachusetts; 1997 ISBN 0-669-44402-2


The graphic images are my own work.

© 2013 Marie Flint

Comments

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on February 08, 2019:

Thank you for your input, Anna. Conversation and creative writing follow freer standards than nonfiction journalism.

DD on July 01, 2018:

Correction on Marie Flint's post from

4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

Your right, Jackie, that's a good example.

Correction - You're right.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on August 29, 2014:

You're welcome, Lady Treana. As you may have noticed, I was an English major at college.

Blessings!

Theresa M. Odom-Surgick from Albany, New York on August 29, 2014:

Thank you! Very helpful information that I'd forgotten.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on January 09, 2014:

I think I enjoyed grammar because I have an analytical mind. I like to take sentences apart mentally to see how the different words are functioning in context. There's a lot to talk about with regards to proofreading, so I hope to do more hubs in the future--one topic at a time.

Eric Calderwood from USA on January 06, 2014:

I'm hoping that grammar will get easier the more I study it. I will probably need to refer back to this hub again in the future.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on January 06, 2014:

That IS silly, Evan. As I mentioned in my hub, normally speech isn't corrected in direct quotation. Was that the one with Robin Williams studying to become a doctor? If not, it sounds similar.

Evan Smiley on January 04, 2014:

Have you ever seen the movie With Honors? It's so funny! There is a scene and the boy says, "Which door do I leave from?" To which the professor says, "At Harvard, we don't end our sentences with prepositions," and his witty reply is "Okay. Which door do I leave from, asshole?" I know it is still incorrect, but it was still funny to me and this reminded me of it!

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 06, 2013:

In math, a double negative in multiplication and division equals a positive. That gets translated over into language, and that's what makes the double negatives confusing, because the speaker usually means the opposite (negative not positive).

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 06, 2013:

I found the comments on double negatives interesting. When I first started as a legal editor, I was startled to find that double negatives were used in legal writing for emphasis. I wish I could think of an example, but I don't have a law book handy. Also many sentences were written with the negative, "No person shall ...." We are trying to write now to the positive, "A person shall not...."

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 06, 2013:

Jackie and Examiner, I guess we've found one of our pet peeves with language. I've used that phrase, "I couldn't care less" myself with the intended meaning that I didn't care at all. It's certainly not the best English because less implies a comparison. Less than what? The implied answer is "less than I care right now." So, the phrase, "I couldn't care less" means I am incapable of caring any less than right now because I don't care at all! (Anyone ready for reviving ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS? Ah, logic!) Bless you both.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 06, 2013:

Except every teacher it came up with claimed I was wrong and that it was a double negative when I knew better! In my day you did not argue much with teachers, which is probably just as well. lol

The Examiner-1 on December 06, 2013:

Jackie,

From my point it is hard to tell whether it is a double negative, but I would say that it is a 'contradiction'. An opposite of itself - "I couldn't" and "care less".

What do you say Marie?

Kevin

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 06, 2013:

Your right, Jackie, that's a good example. "Less" is a degree and not total negation. So, what the speaker is saying is at whatever level of caring he or she sees himself/herself, the caring could or couldn't be less. Fun stuff, huh? ***

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 06, 2013:

One I always had to argue with was, "I couldn't care less." Double negative? If I say I could care less I would be lying because I couldn't. lol

The Examiner-1 on December 06, 2013:

Marie Flint,

I, too, hate those 'double negatives'. That is one reason that I stopped using contractions - to make sure that I did not do use them. It helps me a lot.

Kevin

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 05, 2013:

Hi, Examiner, and how about those double negatives? "I ain't got nothin'." We Americans are a colorful lot!

I have always believed that education helps bring us together. Kindness and compassion, however, are the keys to true happiness, whatever one's language may be. --Blessings

The Examiner-1 on December 05, 2013:

What about using "Yes. No." or "Yeah. No." in the same sentence. I was never able to figure that one out!?

Ann Carr from SW England on December 05, 2013:

Yes it's interesting that there are words in America which either don't exist here or that have totally different meanings - can be embarrassing! I suppose the hodge-podge of an English that's already made up of words from so many invaders becomes even more so when the languages of many American citizens are added.

You are so right about those gerund modifiers! Look forward to reading your hub on that.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 05, 2013:

Annart, sometimes I'm guilty of starting a sentence with a conjunction. This practice seems to be fairly common in informal writing, but certainly has no place in polished article writing.

Another practice which rather irks me are misplaced gerund modifiers. I see a lot of these and am thinking about doing a hub on that also.

Yes, English is a rather complicated language compared to others. I think that especially in America, the language is a hodge-podge of so many other languages.

Thank you for visiting and commenting. --Blessings!

Ann Carr from SW England on December 05, 2013:

What really gets me is when people use 'but' and 'and' to start a sentence. They are conjunctions and therefore should be used to join two sentences. It's done in speech but shouldn't be done in writing (unless in reported speech of course).

Having a sound basis of grammatical English is necessary for good writing; prepositions are some of the most difficult words to use correctly, especially for those where English is a second language.

A useful hub.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 03, 2013:

Thank you, Jackie. I'm glad you found this hub useful. I hope those who didn't have straight A's take the time to read it and find it helpful as well.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 02, 2013:

Great refresher course. I was a straight A English student but time and shortcuts make one sloppy. I go back and catch many things like these and recognize it taking a fresh look at it but I am sure much I miss much! Thanks for sharing. Important stuff!

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 02, 2013:

That's a funny line, MizBejabbers! Speech and writing are two separate things. One gets away with a lot more in speech, but, then communication is much more than words.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 02, 2013:

Some skillful fixes, Marie. This reminds me of the story told on Winston Churchill of an editor who once rearranged one of his sentences to avoid ending with a preposition. Churchill replied “This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.” My retired English teacher friend told this but it has now been debunked. Anyhow, the point is well taken. I sometimes (but rarely) end a sentence with a preposition just to avoid this type of pedantry.

The Examiner-1 on December 01, 2013:

I agree about the language. A phrase (rule) which I often hear is "You ended your sentence in a prepositon", or, "Do not end sentences in prepositions".

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 01, 2013:

The English language is rapidly eroding, Ms. Dora. My little efforts are an attempt to regain some hope for scholarly usage. So much on the internet, however, seems to be going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Thank you for commenting and attempting to follow proper usage. Blessings!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 01, 2013:

I find myself not caring about the improper usage of prepositions, because even reputable works seem to allow it. Reading your article motivates me to strive for the right. Thank you for underscoring the right usage; it also makes for better reading.

Eiddwen from Wales on November 30, 2013:

A great hub and thank you for sharing Marie.

Eddy.

The Examiner-1 on November 30, 2013:

Marie Flint

I am sure that it will.

Chuck RitenouR from Front Royal, Virginia on November 29, 2013:

I love this.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on November 29, 2013:

Thank you, Examiner. I only hope this hub helps those who need to read it! --Blessings!

The Examiner-1 on November 29, 2013:

This was a very good Hub. I have read a few grammar books - since I d0 not remember much from school - but I still have not memorized everything about grammar. I just try to rephrase sentences and end them with nouns. You get voted up in my class. :-)