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I would like to know if there is any rule to know where prepositions should be placed in questions or clauses.

For example, I have heard many sentences and some of them put the preposition in the start and others in the end, but I don't know if there's any rule for this or any recommendation.

Where are you from?

Who are you talking to?

To whom are you talking?

He's the person I was speaking to.

He's the person to whom I was speaking.

This is the place from where you should start.

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2 Answers

In informal English, the Prepositions are normally placed after the Verb - whether in Relative Clauses or questions.

From your example, "He's the person I spoke TO."

Also, we don't often use "whom" in spoken English. We use "who" or "that" or omit the Relative Pronoun altogether.

"He's the person I spoke to."

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If this is the case, I must be the odd man out. I find myself using "whom" quite often in regular conversation. –  AndyPerfect Jun 21 '12 at 16:30
    
You might not often use 'whom', but there are those who still do. –  nicodemus13 Jun 27 '12 at 17:18
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The 'rule' for prepositions is that they should be placed before their complement, hence the name - pre-position. Failure to do this (and the 'never end a sentence with a preposition' rule...) is called preposition stranding.

Having said that, the 'rule' that prepositions should preceded their complement has no real basis, and was probably made up by John Dryden when he grumbled about Ben Jonson writing "the bodies that those souls were frightened from".

Maybe because of this, preposition stranding in English is very common:

  • in Wh- questions, because the preposition complement is the wh-, which has been fronted to make a question - "He talked about what?" > "What did he talk about?"

  • in relative clauses, again because the preposition complement gets moved - "I told you about this restaurant" > "This restaurant is the one [that] I told you about"

  • in passives/false passives - "He has slept in this bed" > "This bed has been slept in."

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the 'rule' that prepositions should preceded their complement has no real basis: how does one define which rules have a basis, though? –  nicodemus13 Jun 27 '12 at 17:19
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