Why do some people end sentences in "with"?
September 24, 2010 4:46 PM   Subscribe

Why do people say, "Can I come with" and "Do you want to go with"? That "with" hanging on the end of that sentence has always driven me crazy. I heard it twice last night on television. Isn't there supposed to be a noun or pronoun following that preposition? Is ending a sentence this way a regional thing? If it's grammatically acceptable, then why does it sound so utterly awkward to my ear?
posted by jackypaper to Writing & Language (60 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's not correct, but it's shorthand.
posted by amethysts at 4:50 PM on September 24, 2010


It's shorthand, and it's perfectly correct.
posted by beagle at 4:52 PM on September 24, 2010 [15 favorites]


It's implying the word "you" at the end, but leaving it out, because the context makes it obvious. If you eliminate the dangling preposition to make it grammatically correct, it feels better, but leaves the meaning a bit ambiguous.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:52 PM on September 24, 2010


As an upper midwesterner, I definitely think of this as a local thing. We learned in high school that you're not allowed to end a sentence with a preposition, so it makes sense that this would sound awkward and incorrect.
posted by vytae at 4:53 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am no linguist, but I suspect this is one of those regional variations in speech that happen naturally. I have heard people say "Do you want to come with?" before, although it's not very common here in Chicago. (At least among the people I hang out with.) Grammatically, yes, there should probably be a 'me' or an 'us' at the end of the question. But grammar is just a bunch of rules we made up.
posted by lholladay at 4:53 PM on September 24, 2010


I second it's a regional thing. We said it growing up, all the time, in the midwest! Husband is from the midwest and he says it as well!
posted by 6:1 at 4:54 PM on September 24, 2010


It has become increasingly acceptable in casual speech over the past 15 (at least) years. The first instance I remember hearing on television was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

A lot of people dislike it, and it is unacceptable in anything other than a casual setting, but it is definitely gaining in acceptance, and it might be unremarkable in a generation.
posted by jeather at 4:54 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


"With" is a preposition. Proper grammar would state that you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition.

I did think it was a regional thing, midwest, the first time I heard it.

It annoys the piss out of me too.
posted by TheBones at 4:57 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never lived in the Midwest, and I do this all the time. No idea where I got it from (I don't watch TV either). The me/us/you is implied and understood, so why continue on past the with?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:02 PM on September 24, 2010


Proper grammar would state that you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition.

Proper grammar would be wrong. In a line misattributed to Winston Churchill, "This is the kind of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put." Rephrase that the way you would naturally say it, and the sentence ends with "with." But that's not the construction at issue here — in "do you want to come with", "come with" is a substitution for "come along." "Along" is another preposition. If one's right, the other's right.
posted by beagle at 5:02 PM on September 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


and it is unacceptable in anything other than a casual setting,

The only use of language I can imagine that would preclude the use of colloquialisms is legal, or perhaps a dissertation. Statements like these confuse me.

People say only "Can I come with" because by that point the meaning is blaringly obvious. Language is primarily for communicating information, and language that doesn't add anything tends to vestige.
...
Behold! It has been verbed!
posted by Phyltre at 5:02 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


We learned in high school that you're not allowed to end a sentence with a preposition, so it makes sense that this would sound awkward and incorrect.

The ending a sentence with a preposition rule (which is kind of a made-up thing and not really a natural part of the English language) is not what makes it sound weird. "My bed is what I sleep on" ends with a preposition but sounds more normal because no words are left out. "Can I come with" sounds unfinished if you aren't accustomed to the phrase, because it is really "Can I come with (you)" with an implied object at the end that is not spoken. It's not really any different than "(Have you) got any spare change?" or any other casual phrase where subjects or objects are implied.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:03 PM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I always thought that it was a Yiddishism, and while looking up something that might support that random notion, found this related discussion.
posted by jamaro at 5:04 PM on September 24, 2010


Nthing that it's a Midwestern regionalism; I first heard it from a Minnesotan. It's an ear-grater for me: not only does it end a sentence with a preposition, but it completely leaves out the object of the preposition, plus it places emphasis on the word "with," which is typically unstressed in conversation.

(If I'm feeling crass I reply "come with what?")
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:04 PM on September 24, 2010


Dropping words off the end of the sentence seems to be an american thing. I noticed it when I moved to the USA (eg. It's cold out"(side)).
I thought about my own speech and realized that this word dropping was jarring because where I'm from, we drop words off the start of the sentence, not the end. Eg. (I am) "Going to the store, do you need anything?"
Americans do that too, but not to the same extent.

So yeah: (It's) Regional.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:08 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I actually thought this was a Philly regionalism. Shows to go you.
posted by eugenen at 5:08 PM on September 24, 2010


beagle: But that's not the construction at issue here — in "do you want to come with", "come with" is a substitution for "come along." "Along" is another preposition. If one's right, the other's right.

Nice try, but in that context, "along" is an adverb.

Also "coming with" is not the "ending a sentence with a preposition" situation you were warned about in school. You were warned against putting the object of a preposition somewhere else in the sentence, like "You make tasty cookies, which I'd like to have more of."

Cranky-pantsed grammarians would insist that the sentence should be "You make tasty cookies, of which I'd like to have more." This sort of construction makes you sound cranky-pantsed, and I wouldn't bother actually rearranging all my sentences to comply with this rule.

"Coming with" is, like everybody else said, shorthand. And fine in television dialog, I guess. I mean, it's going to be a rough time for you if you're going to try to copy-edit everything people say on TV.
posted by purpleclover at 5:10 PM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I started hearing and noticing it in the early 1990s, which coincides with the point at which I started thinking about language instead of just using it. I thought it was rather flip and it seemed to be moving from West to East (in the sense that it was used when we were in Texas, but not when we were in Connecticut a few years later, but it had reached rural Ohio by the time we moved there.) My mother started using it around 1995 or so, which is also when she spontaneously reverted to calling everyone "y'all," apparently due to a second exposure to our Kentucky relatives (the first time in college.) It took a long time for my sisters and I to get over being mortified by both usages.

Now I hear it everywhere and people are more or less saying it in a straightforward manner (not just to be cute,) the way they are with telling someone to text them or saying "dude" even though they're in West Virginia. It's completely unironic. In thirty years I suspect it'll be a standard informal usage attested back to something appearing on regional TV in the mid-1980s and in small-run books back to the turn of the century. It feels Valley-girl-esque to me but this post says it possibly came from Yiddish. Unfortunately I grew up in the Valley with (amongst other things) people raised by Yiddish speakers from throughout Eastern Europe, who had lived everywhere from Chicago to NYC, so I have no way of separating "I think it sounds like the people I grew up with" from "this is the culture it really comes from."

Joss Whedon has an ear for this stuff, but I'm completely certain it's something he heard and put in Buffy's (or Cordelia's) mouth, rather than something he invented.
posted by SMPA at 5:12 PM on September 24, 2010


I had never heard this until I moved to the Upper Midwest over 15 years ago. It still sounds wrong to me, but I've learned to live with it.
posted by stopgap at 5:16 PM on September 24, 2010


Jamaro's link fingers a derivation from the German mitkommen — "Kommst du mit?" means "Are you coming along?" But since "mit" also means "with," it has turned into "Are you coming with?"

Look, English is full of these things, just as English usages ("OK," for example) infiltrate other languages. "Are you coming with?" is here to stay, and is absolutely no different, in terms or grammar, meaning or correctness, from "Are you coming along?"
posted by beagle at 5:16 PM on September 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


"With" is a preposition. Proper grammar would state that you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition.

This was a rule that was made up pretty much arbitrarily in the 18th century (along with "do not split infinitives" and many others) in a misguided attempt to make English grammar conform to Latin, and can readily be ignored the vast majority of the time. And I say this as someone whose livelihood depends on being a stickler for grammar.
posted by scody at 5:17 PM on September 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


(If I'm feeling crass I reply "come with what?")

Oh dear. At this point my internal narrative voice became rather like Gordon Ramsey as we toured the room surveying the objects I was most likely to come with, and the various methods of travel that each article might avail itself of.

We got as far as a particularly nice bottle of wine.
posted by Phyltre at 5:19 PM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's common in the UK too, FWIW.

"Proper grammar" is a largely subjective notion. The closest sensible reference-point for grammar as an objective notion would be non-ambiguity; ie, bad grammar is grammar that would cause a typical person to be unclear about what you're saying. "Can I come with" doesn't seem to contravene this.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:21 PM on September 24, 2010


Nice try, but in that context, "along" is an adverb.
OK, I stand corrected there. But in the battle about ending sentences with prepositions, some writers avoided ending with adverbs that sounded like prepositions, also. Either way, it's a non-rule applied to a non-issue.
posted by beagle at 5:24 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only use of language I can imagine that would preclude the use of colloquialisms is legal, or perhaps a dissertation. Statements like these confuse me.

It would be inappropriate to write "will you come with?" in business correspondence, for instance, or on a formal invitation. It would not go over well if you were writing an essay. It would be appropriate in some magazines but not others. It would be strikingly out of place if a politician said it in a major speech. Different places, different modes of speech. (Unrelated to those, it's also inappropriate except in a high-context conversation, because it leaves out a lot of information. But that's pragmatics.)

I agree that Joss Whedon is unlikely to have invented it. But BtVS is the first show I remember hearing it on.

It sounds fine to me, I use it a lot. It's extremely casual, but the world is full of casual speech.
posted by jeather at 5:26 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This isn't really a case of ending a sentence with a preposition. The real sentence is "Do you want to come with me?" It's actually a great example of why you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition; it indicates a relationship between things. "come with me" "fond of turkey" etc.

This leaving off of incredibly obvious words is an accepted grammatical thing in latin and I cannot for the life of me remember what it's called. I like it though.
posted by EtzHadaat at 5:29 PM on September 24, 2010


I learned this as being related to German and Dutch variants on English in Pennsylvania.

"Komst u met?" = "Are you coming with?" if you don't change the word order, and that dialect stuck around. (I talk like that.)
posted by zvs at 5:31 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, I see beagle beat me to it.
posted by zvs at 5:31 PM on September 24, 2010


To my ear it creates a sense of casual intimacy. Not really my style, though. (Wait, shouldn't there have been an "It is" at the start of my second sentence?)
posted by alms at 5:46 PM on September 24, 2010


(Why do people do this...) Most of the people I hear using it seem to be deliberately aiming for "twee" or "trendy". I'm on the east coast (Virginia).
posted by anaelith at 5:57 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's short for "come with me."

All the talk about "Is it OK to end a sentence with a preposition?"* is interesting, but beside the point in this case. See, the fact that it's not "proper" is ... kinda the point. You're deliberately striking a casual note -- like saying "kinda" or "wanna" or "see ya" instead of "kind of" or "want to" or "see you."

* The answer: Don't end a sentence with a preposition, unless you have to.
posted by John Cohen at 5:58 PM on September 24, 2010


It's interesting that there seem to be links to the German and Yiddish communities. I heard "Can I come with" a lot in Mennonite towns here in Manitoba, Canada; definitely did not hear it in the predominantly Ukrainian, Icelandic and French towns.

The Mennonite dialect is Low German (of which I know all of five words), but the phrase "komst u met" sounds very much like what is said when people are going somewhere. It would make sense to directly translate this as "can I come with."
posted by Hardcore Poser at 6:04 PM on September 24, 2010


I first heard this from a friend in college who was majoring in German, and I assumed it was a jokingly literal translation of mitkommen, as in Beagle's example. But the friend had also lived in Ohio for at least a couple years, so perhaps picked it up as a "midwestern thing."
posted by Orinda at 6:05 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is no hard-and-fast rule that you can't end a sentence with a preposition. It's pura mierda, as they say.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 6:08 PM on September 24, 2010


What room are you in?

What are you talking about?

I'm going under.

Etc.

There is nothing ungrammatical about ANY idiom or form people actually use. That people say things like this all the time makes a postpositional form perfectly grammatical in English, idiomatic in many cases.

Another thing about actual language grammar vs. prescriptive dictum: the former is always changing well ahead of the latter. But in this case the prescriptive dictum is just wrong.

/linguist
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:31 PM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bay Area native here and the only time I've heard this is from Minnesota transplants. I always wonder why include the "with"? Why not just say, "wanna come? or "Can I come?" Why add extra words at all? If the you is implied then so is the with. The German connection was enlightening. Thanks Metafilter!
posted by wherever, whatever at 6:37 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, those saying the "come with" idiom is distinct from pospositional expressions, yes, sort of true. But not entirely. Think about how "iced" tea became "ice" tea.

In other words, the argument of the intransitive verb that is the understood "you" here will eventually be lost as an obligatory (and often redundant in context, I love how efficient the vernacular can be) expression. We won't notice it is missing at some point, and some people probably already do.

Betcha.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:38 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is ending a sentence this way a regional thing?

I've always said it. From New England with two Yiddish speaking grandparents, other part of the family was from the midwest. If it's trendy lately, I haven't noticed, it's normal speaking around here.
posted by jessamyn at 6:38 PM on September 24, 2010


Oh, and perhaps because I am a college professor and thus constantly exposed to a range of dialects and young speakers, I do not think "come with" is regional, although it surely was once. I hear it as a standard informal idiom, just like "ain't" and "y'all" (which is no longer clearly southern).
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:41 PM on September 24, 2010


The only use of language I can imagine that would preclude the use of colloquialisms is legal, or perhaps a dissertation. Statements like these confuse me.

I would not use that construction in work correspondence. For instance I would never write, "The production designer and I will be having a photo meeting tomorrow at 3pm and we were wondering if you'd like to come with." I would write "...if you'd like to attend," or similar. Even if we were literally speaking about plans to go to an off-site location, I'd still say, "come with us." "Come with" doesn't sound professional.

The only reason I still give half a shit about grammar rules is the amount of completely illegible work email I get.
posted by Sara C. at 7:06 PM on September 24, 2010


It's an americanism. I've never heard it anywhere else
posted by fshgrl at 7:22 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


other part of the family was from the midwest.

I'm from the midwest, and it's a pretty common way to say it there.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:24 PM on September 24, 2010


Oh, and all that said, "come with" is just simple elision.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:31 PM on September 24, 2010


Data point: I grew up in Texas, never hearing this. However, I distinctly remember someone pointing it out to me in the late 1990's, as a new way of talking that was irritating to them. I probably also started saying it in the early 2000's, but don't so much anymore. I assume it's just a language fad of some kind (a colloquialism that spreads and retracts?).
posted by unknowncommand at 8:33 PM on September 24, 2010


Yup, first time I heard this was in Minnesota.

Nthing the connection to German, and pointing out (since it hasn't been made explicit in this thread) that there are tons of (descendants of) German immigrants in the upper Midwest. (Also Scandinavian, and those languages are also somewhat close to German, so...)
posted by the_blizz at 9:31 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Regional, Midwest. My dad is from Chicago and says this. I sorta picked it up because I thought it was cute but my fiance always corrects me!
posted by radioamy at 11:14 PM on September 24, 2010


I hear it all the time from a Canadian Maritimer of Danish and English parents.
posted by acoutu at 11:59 PM on September 24, 2010


My grandfather, who lived in the Northeast (US) his entire life, had quite a few phrases like this. My favorite was "Let's go get some coffee and."

Meaning "Let's go get some coffee and [danishes, cake, pie, anything that goes well with coffee].
posted by the jam at 12:48 AM on September 25, 2010


It's an americanism. I've never heard it anywhere else

No, it's not. It's very common in the UK.
posted by goo at 2:10 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle) and grew up saying and hearing this usage in the 70s and since. It's natural and common enough that I don't think anyone would blink an eye at it, and I find it very very odd that someone would call it trendy -- or incorrect. It is a common and natural phrase in my dialect.

The Seattle area does have some background in common with the Upper Midwest -- both areas were heavily settled by Scandinavians. Is it similar to a Scandinavian usage?

Now, the usage that bugs me is when people say that something "needs fixed" or whatever. I suppose that usage is to me as "come with" is to some of you, but the latter to me sounds fine and the former is like nails on a blackboard. :) (And "needs fixed" isn't very Northwest -- I never once heard anyone say it until I was well into adulthood. But the weird thing is that it was my husband and his family, who have been in the PNW for about 3 generations.)
posted by litlnemo at 2:46 AM on September 25, 2010


I've always thought that people use it to add a nonchalant air to the request, as in "I could come with you... Or not, whatever." It's as if saying the whole "Can I come with you?" or "...with me?" can sound too needy. This could explain the popularity of the expression (also common in Australia, by the way).
posted by birch effect at 4:14 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, an old and completely standard English expression has this same structure: "mind if I tag along [with you]?" Does anyone have a problem with that?

There is a deeper structural thing going on here. Verbs take what are called "arguments" -- the set of nouns or pronouns that can attach to a verb structurally, which differs for transitive and intransitive verbs, verbs that take direct or indirect objects (in prepositional/postpositional phrases for example), etc. One of the things we "know" about a verb in our language is what that argument structure is supposed to be. And we use contextual reference -- indexical gestures, for example, such as where we're looking or pointing as we speak -- to refer to some of those arguments in countless English constructions. So "May I have some? [looks at milk longingly]" is a perfectly acceptable elision of "May I have some milk?" when there is milk to be looked at. "May I kick" [looks at ball] is the same thing as "May I kick it?" but *not* the same thing as "You may not punch?" ("But may I kick?"). "I put the car" is ungrammatical in English ("put" requires an indirect object as an argument), but "I put the car in" makes perfect sense if the sentence is opposed to either "I didn't put the car in" or "I put the bike in" (instead).

Following our basic understanding of deep grammatical structure and transformations thereof, the point is that the elided argument is *present anyway* in the mind of both speaker and (presumably, where code is shared) listener. It doesn't need to be expressed to "be there" in some form or other. When you say "May I come with?" it is addressed as a question to a specific person, who is by default the "you" argument of the verb "come."

Sorry to get pedantic, but once again, there is no such thing as an actual usage of language by a native speaker of that language that is "ungrammatical" under normal circumstances, and certainly not any usage that is at all commonly accepted. (One can imagine various things -- inebriation, injury, forgetfulness, distraction -- that might deform the grammar of any given expression in an indiosyncratic way in any given moment, so it is not quite "if someone said it, it's grammatical," but "if two people say it and understand each other, it's grammatical.")
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:50 AM on September 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Oooh, but this also a good chance to point out that grammatical structures are dialogic -- they can be shared across more than one turn in a speech event. "May I come with?" or "May I have some?" make perfect sense as elisions not only when their indirect arguments are present to be referred to physically, but when they have been introduced in a prior turn. So:

"I'm going to have some milk."
"May I have some?"

is different from

"I'm thirsty."
"May I have some?"

And
"I'm going to the store."
"May I come with?"


Vs.

"I'm bored."
"May I come with?"


The key point here is that when we speak, the actual words we say are not the only elements of our grammatical constructions. So are contextual features and prior information introduced into speech event.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:54 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


A final thought: I doubt there is a direct dialectal influence from German or Scandinavian languages spoken by immigrants. Much more likely is that English shares an underlying transformational structure with those languages, with which it also shares a common ancestor language. "Kommen sie mit?"is no different from "Are you tagging along?"
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:43 AM on September 25, 2010


An admittedly stretched example of how to correctly end [split infinitive there] a sentence with multiple prepositions — seven to ten, to be exact:

The story goes that the kid rejected a particular book, downstairs, before dinner. After dinner it's bedtime, and mom comes up the stairs with the same book. So the kid goes, "What did you bring that book that I didn't want to be read to out of before up for after?" Which is seven, count'em, consecutive prepositions at the end of a sentence. (And then, if the book is about Australia, you could make it, "What did you bring that book that I didn't want to be read to out of before about Down Under up for after?" Ten.
posted by beagle at 6:46 AM on September 25, 2010


The only place I've ever heard it was Raising Arizona (1987) - spoken by the Evelle Snoats character, played by William Forsythe, using an accent I can't pin down but is definitely regional.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:36 AM on September 25, 2010


Minnesotan here and until I moved out of the Midwest, I had no idea that a) it was an 'unusual' way to say it or b) other people found it really vexing. 'Do you want to come with me' sounds clunky and "do you want to come' sounds like it's, well, missing the 'with'. Regardless of grammar-book rules, the way everyone around you speaks a certain phrase is going to be a 'right' way to say it.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:15 AM on September 25, 2010


Now, the usage that bugs me is when people say that something "needs fixed" or whatever. I suppose that usage is to me as "come with" is to some of you, but the latter to me sounds fine and the former is like nails on a blackboard.

This one is a regional thing. I forget which specific region it comes from, but I remember discussing it in a linguistics course at some point in college.

There are a lot of these floating around out there, and it fascinates me how deeply wrong they sound to people outside the particular region. Either is sounds totally normal to you, or it sounds ridiculous, something that doesn't even "work" in your language. I remember, for instance, the first time I heard someone use "save" with the meaning "put away". It's common within 200 miles of where I grew up, but it just didn't sound like a real thing you can really say in English to me, at all.

The reason it's interesting to me is that it's obviously a different thing from "ain't" and "fixin' to" and "gitcha hair did", which I grew up to understand as not being 'correct English'. But I always understood them as part of my language - I just knew articulate people didn't say that. "That needs fixed" or "Wanna come with?" didn't sound like English at all to me at first.
posted by Sara C. at 12:18 PM on September 25, 2010


It's regional, and not my (Mid-Atlantic) region, but I switched from thinking it weird to embracing it after taking German in High School und Uni.
posted by Rash at 2:00 PM on September 25, 2010


Bay Area native here and the only time I've heard this is from Minnesota transplants. I always wonder why include the "with"? Why not just say, "wanna come? or "Can I come?" Why add extra words at all? If the you is implied then so is the with.

I'm the same. We always said, "Wanna come?" or "Can I come?" I never heard anyone say the "...with" until I moved out of the Bay Area. It sounded strange to my ears too.

And I have always ended my sentences however they needed to be ended, prepositions or no. (I begin them with conjunctions too, another no-no).
posted by patheral at 12:28 PM on September 26, 2010


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