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In The Big Bang Theory s02e09 Leonard says:

And you wanna know the worst part? You don't understand what you did wrong because you can't conceive of something that you are not an expert in.

Then Sheldon corrects him:

In which I am not an expert.

What was wrong with Leonard's sentence?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's a running gag in that TV series that when Sheldon Cooper is wrong in a discussion, he will resort to some petty pedantry about grammar.

Some outdated grammarians believe that sentences should be rearranged to avoid ending in a preposition.

However, this rule is impossible to adhere to.

No wait, pardon me! "To this rule, it is possible to adhere. If speak like Master Yoda, you do!"

Legend has it that when Winston Churchill's writing was corrected by an editor to move a preposition away from the end, he mocked the editor by writing back, "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put" which is of course a ridiculous hyper-correction, because "put up with" is a "canned" compound verb which incorporates two prepositions which have to follow the verb, in that order; the prepositions cannot be moved around. A simpler example is "I will get up", which cannot be restructured into "Up I will get".

It is necessary to be aware of this "no preposition at the end of sentence", so that you can properly react if someone tries to correct you.

Just remember Churchill and Master Yoda.

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1  
Thank you. I usually watch tbbt in italian and this part was "qualcosa in cui non sei esperto" - "di cui non sono esperto". It sounds pretty weird, there is no such rule in italian (AFAIK). Probably most of these gags got lost in translation. –  izabera Feb 26 at 1:48
    
@izabera they could at least try something experimental: '... qualcosa, cui non sei esperto in'; "Hey, dummy, you mean 'qualcosa in cui non sei esperto'". :) –  Kaz Feb 26 at 23:44

Leonard sins against the rule of dangling prepositions, (see Tip 2) a rule that certainly not all speakers of English adhere to, but which is vehemently defended by (some?) purists:

You should never end a sentence with a preposition.

A lot of people will consider it nit-picking, they won;t mind if you end your sentence with a preposition, but for some, it is a sin to use a preposition to end a sentence with.

From that link:

Prepositions cannot come at the end of a sentence or clause.

Do not write:
The idea I am thinking of is particularly good.
Instead write:
The idea of which I am thinking is particularly good.

Do not write:
That is behavior I simply cannot deal with.
Instead write:
That is behavior with which I simply cannot deal.

But also:

Nuts. The so-called correct version is much more clumsy that the “incorrect” version.[..]
About ending a sentence with a preposition: Forget about it. If ending a sentence with a preposition is more graceful than not, go ahead and do it.

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1  
It's a non-rule, and I think most prescriptive grammarians agree that it's a non-rule, so we can probably forget about it and move on with our lives :-) But of course your answer is correct: this is the non-rule that Sheldon believes is a non-non-rule. –  snailboat Feb 25 at 9:10

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