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Like many others, I commonly find myself ending a sentence with a preposition. Yes, it makes me cringe. I usually rewrite the sentence, but sometimes (in emails) I just live with it. To, with... you know who you are.

Should I keep fighting myself on this one, or is it okay in some circumstances?

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I think this question is much too steeped in grammar-school pedantry. You yourself say you use it frequently without conscious effort. What better way is there to describe the correctness of an utterance from a descriptive perspective? Is this the type of question the site is interested in? –  Charlie Aug 6 '10 at 3:05
As the little boy said [about the Australian book]: "Daddy, what did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to out of [about Down Under] up for?" –  ShreevatsaR Aug 6 '10 at 3:23
Don't you mean, "When is it okay to use a preposition to end a sentence with?"? –  Ben Alpert Aug 6 '10 at 17:57
Relevant. –  Kosmonaut Aug 26 '10 at 18:35
Whenever you want to. –  advs89 Mar 29 '11 at 20:15

12 Answers 12

up vote 129 down vote accepted

A preposition is a perfectly reasonable word to end a sentence with. Admonitions against doing so are not something anyone needs pay heed to. It's the kind of made-up rule that is not based on the reality of the language and anguish over doing it is something no writer need suffer from. And if you don't believe me, look it up.

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Nice. Was this a prepared response? :) –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 26 '10 at 18:21
Agreed. Though I am in no way unsympathetic to prescriptivist rules, this one is indeed too far from reality and too weakly motivated by aesthetics to warrant such lack of a sense of reality. –  Cerberus Dec 30 '10 at 16:54
Winston Churchill once supposedly wrote some text which a junior member of staff changed in order to avoid a preposition at the end of a sentence. Churchill promptly changed it back, saying "This is something up with which I will not put!" –  AAT Jan 18 '11 at 23:51
@Stat-R and sometimes it's just plain ungrammatical if a preposition is what you end an sentence with. –  nohat Jul 30 '12 at 1:02
@AAT: No, not Winston Churchill. That's a misattribution no longer to be put up with. –  RegDwigнt Aug 21 '12 at 13:48

When is it okay to end a sentence in a preposition?

Any time you please. The "rule" against ending sentences with a preposition is pseudo-Latin piffle with no relevance to modern English in any register.

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Of course, there's the guideline against twisting your sentences just to find a place for which end a sentence a preposition can be used to. –  Joe Z. Feb 21 '13 at 16:07

In my opinion this is one of those stuffy rules touted by grammarians who probably should have better things to do... When you can avoid it, don't end sentences with prepositions, but if rewriting the sentence will make it grammatically tortured, it's best to break the rule for the sake of clarity.

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I really do hope this site remains unspoiled by these grammarians you mention. So far, it's good to see many advocating the breaking of rules where it feels sensible and natural. –  David Foster Aug 5 '10 at 20:48
Well actually, this is not even a rule touted by grammarians. This "rule" was a mistaken grammar rule based on imitating Latin grammar, which came into fashion a century and a bit ago and then disappeared. –  ShreevatsaR Aug 27 '10 at 19:08
And yet it is still often heard! –  Cerberus Dec 30 '10 at 16:55
Do we have Strunk&White to blame? Just wondering... oh, and "When you can avoid" is slightly perpetuating this. I'd say "write whatever works/feels right". Well, that's what I do, anyway. ;-) –  Jürgen A. Erhard Feb 11 '11 at 15:25
It's not the grammarians you have to blame. Grammarians like Geoff Pullum and Jim McCawley have been complaining about popular ignorance of actual grammar for decades. It's these zombie rules that keep on causing trouble; I prefer to use a shotgun on them. –  John Lawler Feb 19 '13 at 21:06

A bit similar to [Peter's answer], but with some more history:

Supposedly, the saying originated with Winston Churchill, though it certainly could be apocryphal. The original version was

"This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put."

... maybe. According to an English professor at Washington State University, there are a lot of variations on that theme out there.

Whatever the details of the story, though, the point is that the preposition rule isn't one that needs to be followed in general use. It doesn't increase clarity or provide any other benefit; it just lets some people provide a different tone to their communication. Or, potentially, feel superior to those who don't obey the rule.

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I was 100% sure that someone would use that Churchill's quote. –  Gurzo Oct 13 '10 at 17:22
@Gurzo, yeah, it's a good one. –  Pops Oct 13 '10 at 21:56

There is just simply no such rule in English.

Now, in the seventeenth century, Dryden complained about it, because he wanted to write a bit about how he was a much better writer than Shakespeare and Johnson, and the best he could come up with is that Shakespeare and Johnson hadn't followed a rule about preposition position that existed in Latin, but had never existed in English.

On the one hand, that at least is a bit better than the nonsense about split infinitives — where people prohibit something in English not because it's forbidden in Latin but because it's actually impossible in it. On the other hand, it's still pretty stupid.

Ironically, English is overall a much stricter language than Latin about word order, and it's precisely because of this that in Latin a preposition not only can't appear at the end of a sentence, but can not appear after its object (that is indeed the etymology of the word — pre- + position). The idea that this means anything in English only follows if we allow that "means the idea in English anything" is a well-written clause (hey, the preposition's in the right place!).

Following Dryden, some more people followed suit. Now, some would say that it is often more graceful to place the preposition before the object, or that it's a good idea to make sure that the preposition isn't so separated from the words it most closely relates to as to cause confusion. I'll agree with the latter and allow the former as true much of the time, though it can be the graceless option other times.

But some went further and said that there was some magical rule against prepositions.

You might think that today we could easily counter such foolishness by pointing out Shakespeare and the King James Bible use it, and you don't have to believe in biblical infallibility — or indeed believe any of it to any degree — to believe the King James is as infallible as can be when it comes to grammar, with Shakespeare as grammar made flesh. (And Shakespeare clearly isn't infallible in other ways — his geography is hilariously bad and his history allowed clocks to chime in Ancient Rome, but it's bad geography and history, beautifully expressed).

But that was a different era, and such ramblers actually cited Shakespeare as an example of bad English, much as people today may complain that an MTV host saying "yo! We gonna pimp yo' ride sweeeeet!" is a bad example to children learning English today.

Thankfully, Shakespeare won the popularity contest, and we can enjoy his plays in any city in the world, and only rarely are such pontificators of invented grammar rules something we have to put up with.

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Though I'm sure there are some expressions ending in prepositions that should not be come up with - probably for other reasons. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 25 '13 at 16:04
@EdwinAshworth I think probably most are covered in what I say about the pre- position being more graceful sometimes, and having a large distance between a preposition and what it relates to being a bad idea. –  Jon Hanna Jan 25 '13 at 16:06

That's the sort of nonsense up with which you should not put.

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Grammar foul! Idiomatic phrases should be used in their entirety or not at all. –  Evan Kroske Aug 5 '10 at 20:30
@Evan that sounds like a weird made-up rule to me... much like the one against ending sentences with prepositions. –  nohat Aug 5 '10 at 20:39
Nice to see someone paraphrasing Winston Churchill on prepositions. The usual version of his quote is “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.” –  Taldaugion Aug 13 '10 at 18:16
Plagiarism! Churchill deserves the credit for this one. :) His actual quote was "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.". –  Noldorin Sep 24 '10 at 18:59
I think the better construction though is "I will not put up with sentences which end with prepositions." -- It's clearer, which is the point of the rule in the first place. –  Billy ONeal Sep 24 '10 at 19:03

As an example, in casual speech and informal writing it is common to say, "Who are you going with?" but in a speech or formal writing you probably want to use the more grammatically accepted correct form "With whom are you going?"

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If you downvote an answer, it is proper etiquette to explain in a comment with what you don't agree. ;-) –  Edward Tanguay Aug 5 '10 at 21:01
The person who downvoted probably disagreed with your prescriptive "you probably want to use the more grammatically accepted correct form". –  nohat Aug 5 '10 at 21:22
This rule has no basis. See several posts above for information. –  Alan Hogue Aug 5 '10 at 22:32
Strunk and White teach "the way to know whether to end a sentence with a preposition is to hear how it sounds" and in writing, I think English sounds more polished in many cases if the preposition is taken off the end. I didn't say "you must use", I said, "you probably want to use". This is the advice I give to, say, people writing resumes or essays which should be written in their best English possible, it is a way of making the text "sound better" and less like a casual spoken conversation. Perhaps you are right, it is more style than grammar, interesting. –  Edward Tanguay Aug 5 '10 at 22:55
I think this is the best advice on this issue: "...it may still be worth revising your sentences to avoid ending them a preposition whenever possible if you wish to reduce the risk of controversy. Since there are still a number of people who believe ending a sentence with a preposition is incorrect, considering your audience’s thoughts on the issue is a wise idea—particularly when you’re trying to gain a new client or land an important job interview.", from: yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules/… –  Edward Tanguay Aug 6 '10 at 9:23

Not only is it perfectly fine to end a sentence with a preposition, it's often impossible to avoid.


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Prepositions end up at the end of sentences that are using phrasal verbs, that is a verb plus a preposition where the preposition isn't starting a prepositional phrase. Phrasal verbs are perfectly okay and are very common in Germanic languages, less common in something like Latin.

English has several registers--levels of formality-- and phrasal verbs are not preferred in formal English.

Above link is dead wayback machine to the rescue until they go out of business.

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It's not just phrasal verbs that cause sentences to end with prepositions. "This is the man I live with" is just as grammatical (and infinitely less fussy-sounding) as "This is the man with whom I live" –  nohat Aug 5 '10 at 20:28
Interesting, looks like the result of topic fronting. Topic fronting causes all sort of weird sentences, e.g. "Now beans, I like." –  MatthewMartin Aug 5 '10 at 20:39
Hitting on the historical, philological aspects of both sides of the argument is way more interesting than the question itself. –  Charlie Aug 6 '10 at 3:07
Thanks for posting the link. A good read on English formality related to questions like this one. –  Brian Kelly Aug 8 '10 at 0:11
The link you posted is broken. Pity. –  Mari-Lou A Dec 18 '13 at 23:46

As easily as ending a sentence in a preposition may roll of your tongue in conversation and be comprehended, unfortunately it is not always comprehended as such when read. Often it looks like an unschooled individual is at work here. However, the heart of the matter is that it is a logical distractor, could lead to confusion, and therefore is to be avoided.

You can sometimes cheat by adding "do so" on the end of some cases, I have found. However, it is best to rewrite the material to avoid the logical distractor when necessary.

Now, in an email, depending upon whom you are writing, it is perfectly acceptable in my humble opinion to end in a preposition as long as it is about 90% obvious that the meaning of the sentence will not be lost.

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What do you mean by "logical distractor"? –  nohat Sep 25 '10 at 0:07
That term means that the phrasing distracts and adds confusion to the sentence. When we write, we wish to express meaning. There are sentences that work, but then again there are sentences that work better, or work best. They work best by being logical in conveying meaning, which means not only good grammar, but good logic and word choice -- not distracting. –  Volomike Sep 25 '10 at 1:34

Agree on mocking the pedantry of this rule.

Perhaps the rule had its origin in the idea that every preposition should have an object, and as the object normally follows the preposition in English, if a sentence ends with a preposition that often means that it has no object.

Consider, "Send a letter to." This obvously is an imcomplete thought. Send a letter to whom?

The catch is that sometimes the object does NOT immediately follow the preposition. To take Churchill's famous sentence that others have quoted here, the natural wording of the thought is, "That is a rule I can't put up with." "With" is a preposition and ends the sentence, but it is not the case that it has no object. The object is "rule", which occurred earlier in the sentence. You could, of course, write, "I can't put up with that rule." It doesn't change the strict meaning of the sentence. But it does change the emphasis, from "that rule" to "I", and so is not entirely equivalent.

Attempts to follow this rule lead people to all sorts of awkward constructions. Is it really better to say, "That is the girl with whom I want to go" rather than "That's the girl I want to go with"? How is the first sentence better ... other than that it conforms to an arbitrary rule?

Side note: One violation of this rule that I hear all the time and that really grates on me for some reason is, "Where's it at?" The "at" has no object, because it is completely superfluous. What you want to say is, "Where is it?" I suspect that when people contract "where is" to "where's", the sentence becomes "Where's it?", which sounds too abrupt, so they feel a need to add an extra syllable, and rather than expanding the contraction, they add a pointless unnecessary word.

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Why not use the 'plain-talk rule'? 'I want to go with that girl'. –  user3847 Aug 4 at 5:58
To me, "Where is it?" and "Where is it at?" are two different questions and are not generally interchangeable. –  guifa Oct 11 at 23:39
@guifa And what is the difference in meaning between the two questions? If someone mentioned, say, the city of York, and you then asked "Where is it?", I would likely reply, "In northern England." If you asked, "Where is it at?", wouldn't the logical reply be the same? –  Jay Oct 14 at 14:24
@Jay the difference is specificity for me. Where is it? England. Where's it at? About half an hour northeast of Leeds. Or, if I'm waiting on a friend. Where are you? On my way. Where are you at? Just passed exit 54. Could be just a regional difference (I'm SAE). –  guifa Oct 14 at 15:39
@guifa So you tend to think of locations in terms of highway exits because you are a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers? –  Jay Oct 14 at 19:49

Yes, it's fine. Even Fowler agrees that the hoary shibboleth forbidding sentences that end in prepositions is hogwash. It came about originally supposedly because such a thing could not happen in Latin, so naturally English must follow suit.

Because all upper-class private schools of the time emphasized, if not required Latin, 'good' grammar was presumed to be grammar that emulated Latin grammar.

But don't take my word for it. Here's what The Oxford Dictionaries has to say:

There’s no necessity to ban prepositions from the end of sentences. Ending a sentence with a preposition is a perfectly natural part of the structure of modern English.

The only time you may wish to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition is when the verb is so far back that its relationship with the preposition becomes unclear.

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protected by RegDwigнt Apr 11 '11 at 8:09

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