I was recently reviewing a piece of writing for a friend of mine who wrote

Though such a theory does not describe the world we live in, it will undoubtedly shed light on...

I told him to change this to

Though such a theory does not describe the world in which we live, it will undoubtedly shed light on...

I'm not entirely sure why I think this is correct besides the indirect evidence obtained from recalling that one is not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition.

Was I correct? Is there a general, corresponding rule? If so, what is it?

  • 4
    The general rule is to ignore the advice you learned from a narrow minded grammarian, and feel free to use a preposition to end a sentence with. Or as one writer put it: "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put." public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/churchill.html
    – MetaEd
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 17:46
  • @MετάEd That's the sort of rule I can really vibe with :) Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 18:04
  • Were you correct? Yes & No! Both forms are fine. To my mind, the first is slightly more natural.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 23:40
  • These crazy young people nowadays; they say the darndest things. Why the other day, my daughter asked me, "Dad, do you want to come with?" Of course I responded, "Where and with whom?" Kids. You can't live with 'em and you can't kill 'em. Commented Aug 24, 2013 at 16:26

2 Answers 2


Either way works fine.

That being said, you have to read it in context with the surrounding passages. I would say that the former might be slightly better in a more casual setting, and the latter in a more formal, in that it sounds slightly more formal.

But the real question is: how does it sound in the place where it is used? That alone should govern, IMHO.


The rule against prepositions at the end of clauses was meant to prevent expressions like "*where is my car at?" The test is whether you can remove the word and still have a valid sentence. The segment really is the clause, not the sentence. "*If I knew where my car was at, I'd still need my car keys" has the same problem as the original.

I think your friend's first sentence was much better than what you had him change it to.

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