Whenever possible, I like to avoid ending sentences with prepositions because some people can be very picky about it. However, I am struggling with this one sentence in particular:

"The hypothesis proposes that the selection against aggression led to other physiological and psychological changes that may not have been directly selected for."

The only alternative I can think of is "....for which were not directly selected", but in my opinion that sounds very awkward. Any suggestions for a better way to phrase that sentence? I believe that it would be acceptable to leave it as it is, but I would prefer not to if possible.

  • "...for which direct selection had not been made"?
    – WS2
    May 18, 2018 at 17:31
  • That changes the meaning, though. As noted, "select for" is a phrasal verb.
    – user184130
    May 18, 2018 at 18:31
  • 1
    The ending is fine. Some people are very picky about people who perform unnecessary gymnastics attempting to avoid finishing sentences with particles/prepositions. Including, if the rumour is correct, Churchill. May 18, 2018 at 18:36
  • I gather this has to do with domestication and conscious selection, as opposed to natural selection. Thus " ... led to other unintentional physiological and psychological changes." Also possible - "The hypothesis proposes that the selection against aggression may have brought with it other physiological and psychological changes that are associated through a gene coexpression network."
    – Phil Sweet
    May 18, 2018 at 18:40
  • If you really want to do this, move the adverb to the end: "may not have been selected for directly." But, as with most attempts to avoid this, it is a little awkward.
    – user184130
    May 18, 2018 at 18:42

1 Answer 1


You can't do for which, because select for is a phrasal verb which does not take an object.

Quite apart from being unnecessary in most cases, here it's absolutely essential to end with for.

  • 'Select for' is certainly transitive. 'Broad spectrum fluoroquinolones tend to select for drug-resistant pathogens.' May 18, 2018 at 18:33
  • The Oxford Dictionary definition says "no object" but they give transitive examples, so I assume they consider the object of these to be indirect objects. Or something?
    – user184130
    May 18, 2018 at 18:38
  • Yes. There is no direct object. One might "select for longevity," perhaps, but it doesn't indicate what is actually selected, only the result. Even Edwin's usage doesn't have a direct object.
    – Andrew Leach
    May 18, 2018 at 20:08

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