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
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 3:05
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    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?" Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 3:23
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    Don't you mean, "When is it okay to use a preposition to end a sentence with?"? Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 17:57
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    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 18:35
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    Whenever you want to.
    – Adam
    Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 20:15

12 Answers 12


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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    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. Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 16:54
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    +1 (mieux vaut tard que jamais) This is the kind of witty answer that make this forum so entertaining (did I say addictive ?). Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 15:52
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    Slate has a great podcast episode that goes into detail how and why ending sentences with a preposition is considered bad grammar. slate.com/articles/podcasts/lexicon_valley/2012/02/…
    – RHPT
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 16:55
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    @Stat-R and sometimes it's just plain ungrammatical if a preposition is what you end an sentence with.
    – nohat
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 1:02
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    @AAT: No, not Winston Churchill. That's a misattribution no longer to be put up with.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Aug 21, 2012 at 13:48

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. Commented Jan 25, 2013 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
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 16:06
  • I knew the general strictures on pedantic junk grammar, but am grateful for the Dryden story, which I didn't know. Myself, I accept split infinitives in others, but I just cannot bring myself to boldly go myself. I just can't; fingernails on the blackboard.
    – David Pugh
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 12:06
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    I already +1’ed this ages ago, but I just realised now that there's a bit of inaccuracy in it: prepositions could occasionally come after their objects in Latin, though normally only immediately after them then. The most common example is the preposition cum with personal pronouns, where the result is usually perceived as a single word: mecum, tecum, nobiscum, vobiscum, etc. Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 19:44
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    @SkJohnson by the same reasoning you should never buy a corsage for a date to a prom, because it's illegal to transport dead bodies unless you are a licensed coroner or undertaker.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 11:57

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.
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 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. Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 20:48
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    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. Commented Aug 27, 2010 at 19:08
  • And yet it is still often heard! Commented Dec 30, 2010 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. ;-) Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 15:25
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    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. Commented Feb 19, 2013 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
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 17:22
  • @Gurzo, yeah, it's a good one.
    – Pops
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 21:56
  • The Churchill story: se non è vero è bene trovato.
    – David Pugh
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 12:00
  • @DavidPugh S'il n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 14:13

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
    Commented Aug 5, 2010 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." Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 20:39
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    Hitting on the historical, philological aspects of both sides of the argument is way more interesting than the question itself.
    – Charlie
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 3:07
  • Thanks for posting the link. A good read on English formality related to questions like this one. Commented Aug 8, 2010 at 0:11
  • The link you posted is broken. Pity.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 23:46

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. ;-) Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 21:01
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    The person who downvoted probably disagreed with your prescriptive "you probably want to use the more grammatically accepted correct form".
    – nohat
    Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 21:22
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    Hmmm, growing up (1970s Colorado) I remember being corrected by both my father and teachers in casual speech if we would say, "who are you going with?" It was one of those grammatical rules that you learned. I do this in writing even in e-mails today since it sounds more grammatically polished as long as it is not e.g. a three-letter phrasal verb of the up-with-which-I-will-not-put genre of affectedness. Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 21:46
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    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. Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 22:55
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    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/… Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 9:23

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.

  • What do you mean by "logical distractor"?
    – nohat
    Commented Sep 25, 2010 at 0:07
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    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
    Commented Sep 25, 2010 at 1:34
  • Volomike here reminds me of the schooldays joke about the carpenter holding a nail who said to his mate, "When I nod my head, hit it." Is that perhaps an example of a logical distractor?
    – David Pugh
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 12:10

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
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 5:58
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    To me, "Where is it?" and "Where is it at?" are two different questions and are not generally interchangeable. Commented Oct 11, 2014 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
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 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 Southern AmE). Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 15:39
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    A lot of the grammar rules we learn in elementary school are taught because we may not yet be ready to learn all the proper nuances, and so we have a simple blanket rule, to prevent a common learner's mistake (e.g. an omitted object). Another example is "Don't start a sentence with 'and'." And that rule exists because an English novice may place a full stop before a conjunction where they should use a comma instead. But, of course, there is a correct way to start a sentence with 'and'; the novice just isn't ready to learn to differentiate that yet. Commented May 26, 2016 at 15:36

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.


The same could be said of the word ain't and yet no one insists on its being grammatically correct. Ain't is accepted in conversational English perfectly well but it will be frowned upon when it is put into print.

This is a non sequitur indeed. The placing of a preposition at the end of a sentence has far more linguistic acceptance (and common usage) than ain't has ever had, or ever will. Does anyone even seriously (non-comically, non-ironically) use ain't anywhere? I'm willing to be so advised.

Rules against sentence-ending prepositions are as forgettable as those against the split infinitive.

  • Just mistaken identification of when a word that looks like a preposition is actually acting like one.
    – Sk Johnson
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 19:36
  • And, yes, plenty of people use it, go to a high-school campus someday and you will hear enough of it.
    – Sk Johnson
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 22:01
  • And cases where words which normally function as prepositions are at the ends of logistically sound sentences, I guarantee you, are not serving the purpose of a preposition in that particular sentence. Most likely they are incorporated as part of a verb+helping verb phrase which, together, are simply a verb (think of the helping verb, or particle, as being an adverb modifying the verb next to it). Either that or they are in the form of a question, and questions are allowed to be incomplete sentences. – Sk Johnson 2 days ago
    – Sk Johnson
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 23:20

Okay, sure, it doesn't matter... Unless, of course, you're writing your college thesis and just can't seem to figure out why on earth your lunatic professor only gave your paper a C after all the hard work you put in to it. Hmm... well, maybe it matters just a little, don't you think? I mean, even if you disagree with the convention, try convincing the dean of the university's Linguistics Department how it 'must be correct because so many people use it so often' and see if that gets you anywhere. The same could be said of the word ain't and yet no one insists on its being grammatically correct. Ain't is accepted in conversational English perfectly well but it will be frowned upon when it is put into print. So why don't people just accept the same to be true for prepositional phrase words at the ends of sentences?

See here for the explanation of a prepositional phrase. Particularly, notice the statements "Prepositions are indeclinable words that introduce the object of a prepositional phrase." and "The noun phrase or pronoun that follows the preposition is called the subject of the preposition." these two descriptions make it fairly clear why prepositions don't belong at the end. It's like saying "I'd like to introduce." and then ending the statement there without specifying who you are introducing.

Obviously, if the author is one of literature or prose, or a lyricist, there's good reason why they might want to use improper grammar. Style is often a big part of what draws readers to the content of a piece of work. But that seems to me only to qualify the use of incorrect grammar, not to qualify incorrect grammar as actually being correct.

To be perfectly clear, some words typically used as prepositions are NOT always prepositions! Mistaken identity of the parts of speech is the culprit of every example given in the comments and answers on this page. As the following distinction explains:

  1. A word that looks like a preposition but is actually part of a verb is called a particle. Held up is a verb meaning “to rob.” Therefore, up is not a preposition, and bank is not the object of a preposition. Instead, bank is the direct object of the verb held up.
  2. Is it a particle or a preposition?  To avoid confusing prepositions with particles, test by moving the word (up) and words following it to the front of the sentence:  Up the bank four armed men held.  If the resulting sentence does not make sense, then the word belongs with the verb and is a particle, not a preposition.

Look, whether or not it should or shouldn't be is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that the majority of people who are in positions of power in society and industry today, are of the generation of people who were all taught that ending a sentence with a preposition is bad grammar and that generation of people are likely to make a judgement call about people who do so as being, to some degree, uneducated people. So if you really want to be sure to cross your t's and dot i's in any given particular instance, you'd better your chances of making a good impression if you would also avoid the preposition-ending sentences. When the millennials become the majority of people in positions of power in society, then it will become sound advice to encourage neglect of that 'rule'.

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    try convincing the dean of the university's Linguistics Department how it 'must be correct because so many people use it so often' and see if that gets you anywhere – Actually, linguists tend to be descriptivists instead of prescriptivists nowadays.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 13:20
  • "I'd like to." Clearly this is not a full sentence. Certain prepositions in certain contexts require some other word to follow them. What no one seems to be aware of, here, is that in the vast majority of cases where one does end a sentence with a preposition, the preposition can just be entirely omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence. Yes, there are always exceptions... that is a given in English. Regardless of the analysis of conversational English... comprehensive understanding of sentence structure is still a vitally important aspect of language.
    – Sk Johnson
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 18:57
  • This answer was stitched from three other answers, where two ought have been edits. Here is some commentary on one of those.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 13:18

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