Virginia W.

asked • 12/13/12

Can I end a sentence with a preposition?

Can I end a sentence with a preposition?

Elizabeth B.

One is still officially supposed to avoid ending sentences with prepositions. In most cases, this is not hard to do: "Who are you going with?" becomes "With whom are you going?" Or, "I was making cake and decided to put chocolate chips in" becomes "I was making cake and decided to add chocolate chips."

The common tactics are: for whom (for "who for), in which, that which, from which, etc. This lets you put the prepostion in the middle of the sentence and end with a stronger part of speech (noun, verb, adj., adverb). However, the famous silly argument against following the preposition rule is: "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something for which I will not put!" Clearly, here, the sensible alternative could be, "I will not tolerate writers who end sentences with a preposition." It sounds a little silly, because you just did end with "a preposition," but "preposition" is technically a noun, so it's okay anyway. In general, it's not hard to avoid ending with prepositions once you become aware of them and practice a bit. Regardless of recent carelessness in many texts and test prep books, it is still better writing to avoid breaking this rule.



Ashley S.

I definitely agree with Elizabeth, Virginia, though I might add that your answer depends on the context. For 'professional' works like academic papers or resumes, certainly; for informal blogs or commercial prose, I would argue no.
The later is all about possessing a voice, a 'tone' a reader can discern through reading the words alone so they wish to continue. Stilted language to avoid putting prepositions at the end of independent clauses can jar a reader, as well as sounding artificially unnatural and trying WAY too hard. This same philosophy can apply to using "you" or "I" (second or first person): avoid it like the plague in professional works, but it's perfectly alright in informal pieces.


Michael E.

I would like to clarify my previous comment: "Academic people are the slowest to adapt to language changes.... don't worry about this rule unless a teacher brings it up."

It is generally better to find alternatives to ending with prepositions in order to please your traditional teacher and avoid awkward sentences. However, I intentionally used the word "better" instead of "correct."
Also, consider that language rules and conventions necessarily change over time for practical reasons. For example, if you read American English books published more than a century ago, you will easily see text that would be considered incorrect these days. Such changes reflect the ways people think and speak in different time periods.

I'd also like to clarify that my comment that "academic people are the slowest to adapt to language changes" was not meant to be negative. I, too, am an "academic person." However, many of the comments posted here reflect a traditional preference for slowing or stopping language changes, which plays an important role in the long-term process. Permanent changes that affect society are most effective when they are cautiously slowed down in order to make sure they are not just passing fads. That is the role of tradition.
Finally, when I wrote that you don't need to worry about this rule, I meant to imply that (1) in some cases, ending with a preposition may go undetected because it reflects currently accepted idiom (preferred ways of wording ideas). (2) In other cases, what seems to be a preposition is technically an adverb (much like a noun can technically be used as an adjective or adverb).
At times, a well-meaning academic proofreader will incorrectly "correct" the adverb the end of a sentence, assuming it to be a preposition. Consider the nursery rhyme in which "Jack and Jill went up a hill," which ends "Jack fell down.... And Jill came tumbling after." An ambitious proofreader may try to use awkward prepositional phrases like this:
Jack and Jill went up a hill...
Jack fell down the hill....
And Jill came tumbling after him."
Sometimes, in an attempt to avoid breaking this traditional rule, academic writers may use overly formal or awkward sentences. My journalism professor often said with a smirk, "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put." This implies a correction to this sentence: "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something that I won't put up with." Traditionally, this prepositional ending would be incorrect; however, in many professional contexts, it may be acceptable. I find that awkward, so I would change it to: "I will not put up with a sentence that ends with a preposition." My solution uses a less formal style that you may prefer to write with. Or maybe it's a style with which you'd prefer to write?


Nancy N.

You can end a sentence in a prepositional phrase but not a preposition. According to the rules of grammar, all sentences should end in a noun.
    Nancy N.


Michael E.

The claim that "all sentences should end in a noun" is incorrect. I intentionally ended that sentence with an adjective.


Matt H.

Can I end a sentence with five prepositions in a row? Like this:
Father is going to read his son "The Proper Use of Prepositions" as a bedtime story.
Son whines, "Aw dad, what'd you bring that lousy book that I don't to be read to out of up for?"


Miss Angie G.

The idea that it's wrong to end a sentence with a preposition (from, with, etc.) was invented by the English poet John Dryden... in 1672. He probably based his objection on a bogus comparison with — you guessed it — Latin, where such constructions don't exist. In any case, there is no basis to the rule in English grammar, and, once again, great writers have ignored it with no great loss to their prose or reputations. Jane Austen: "Fanny could with difficulty give the smile that was asked for." Robert Frost: "The University is one most people have heard of." James Joyce: "He had enough money to settle down on." Trying to avoid ending with a preposition frequently ties you into the awkward knot of "to whom" and "to which" constructions. On a memo criticizing a document for committing this "error," Winston Churchill allegedly wrote: "This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put."It is true that prepositions are a relatively weak part of speech and, all things being equal, it's desirable to end sentences strongly. So sometimes it pays to rewrite such constructions. Thus, "He's the person I gave the money to" isn't as good as "I gave him the money."


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Stephen W.

As a traditionalist and a writer, I feel that leaving a preposition at the end of a sentence is a lazy and weak writing style. If I catch this in my own writing or writing I edit, I know that there are several other ways to write a stronger sentence. For my own sense of integrity, I strive to be a stronger writer, so maybe this isn't for everyone.


Kenneth S.

The rule is that you may end a sentence with a preposition. It is a persistent and annoying myth upon which (awkward, right?) people like to call. A linguist would argue with you day and night about usage of prepositions at the end of sentences. 
The common rule of thumb is not to use an extra preposition at the end of a sentence if the meaning is clear without it. 
Where are you going (to)?


Lynne S. answered • 01/05/13

Michael E.

This ^ is a good clarification that goes deeper into the connection between the past and present.

Caution for students: academic people are the slowest to adapt to language changes. Teachers hold the grades, so if they hold onto old traditions, follow the leader in that class.

However, I think it's safe to generalize from what everyone has said here: don't worry about this rule unless a teacher brings it up.



Sally E.

The point about the influence of Latin on English grammar is very much to the point here.  Some of the English grammar "rules" which are starting to go out of fashion date back to a period when all well-educated people knew at least some Latin, and there was a long-term vogue for making English try to do things that arguably can only be elegant in Latin or another inflected language like Ancient Greek.  Avoiding ending with a preposition is one of these (the equivalent Latin or Greek sentence would be elegant, because the first word would be a noun or pronoun in a case form, thus probably eliminating the need for a preposition at all!)
The "don't split the infinitive" rule is another good example.  In Latin, you usually CANNOT split an infinitive, because it's a one-word form, and the few examples of compound infinitives that you get in some tenses should not be split up to avoid ambiguity, since the helping verb you use could easily be mistaken for something else as it's a form of "to be".  But as Gene Roddenberry discovered and popularized, in English, the prose rhythm and clarity of "to boldly go" is far more attractive than "to go boldly" or "boldly to go", and  no one has ever failed to understand the Star Trek motto.
That said, as other commenters have mentioned, ALWAYS follow any published style guides, and always write for your audience--which in high school means your teacher.  If your teacher is still using these rules, which is more likely if he/she is of a significantly older generation, write for them now and write in a more contemporary way later.


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