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

I see it a lot, even though my elementary teacher told me it is wrong. This is probably a new development, a sign that our language is in decay. Soon none of us will be able to understand each other. But this sloppiness is a disaster, up with which I will not put.

What are your own experiences with this terrible phenomenon? How may we roll it back? Should moderators strike out at such language abuse? What do you do to correct your friends, family, and colleagues? Do you leave them notes, too? Voice mails? Should all existing literature be corrected and republished as well, the old editions burned?

  • Isn't it the 2nd already where you live?
    – Marthaª
    Apr 2, 2011 at 3:25
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    My favorite example of ending with five prepositions. Mother, what did you bring that book that I don't like to be read to out of up for? (Not my own, but I can't remember the reference.)
    – Spare Oom
    Apr 2, 2011 at 3:29
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    possible duplicate of When is it okay to end a sentence in a preposition?. Sorry, @Cerberus, but I am voting to close this. Read @nohat's excellent response to the linked question. The prejudice against ending sentences with a preposition is a silly shibboleth that ought to die. I leave you with a quote from Robert Browning: “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?” Notice anything about the last word in that sentence?
    – Robusto
    Apr 2, 2011 at 3:43
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    Y'all realize this is (1) an April Fool's question (2) posted by a, shall we say, tipsy 3-headed puppy?
    – Marthaª
    Apr 2, 2011 at 4:57
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    @Martha: One hour ago was already April 2, for me. It should be April 2 for Cerberus, and in New York too.
    – apaderno
    Apr 2, 2011 at 5:01

2 Answers 2


I remember hearing the same rule. However, according to Oxford Dictionary and Wikipedia, there is no such rule. Sometimes insisting on placing the preposition anywhere other than at the end is very awkward. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_linguistic_example_sentences#Ending_sentence_with_preposition



The reason it is or once was "grammatical taboo" was due to the concept of a prepositional phrase. When one has a prepositional phrase, a preposition is followed by a number of adjectives, and a noun which is the object of the prepositional phrase. If the preposition ends the sentence though, one has a prepositional phrase missing it's object -- which some consider(ed) to be an issue.

However, in modern English, (for the most part) this rule has gone the way of the dodo, just like the rule prohibiting split infinitives. I for one still generally try to avoid ending sentences with prepositions, because such sentences are generally better constructed with the preposition moved somewhere else. However, there are some constructs which can make it difficult to move the preposition elsewhere -- in which case I would simply leave it at the end.

  • 1
    I think it's worth making clear that "in modern English" = "for at least half a millennium". Or put another way, for as long as people have been commenting seriously on the grammar of English, this has been a natural phenomenon of English syntax. So yes, people invented an artificial definition of "preposition" that ignored the actual data. Why one should care much about such a definition is not entirely clear... Apr 2, 2011 at 4:43
  • @Neil: That's fair. I don't know much about the historical precedents for these things; only the reasons. Apr 2, 2011 at 4:44
  • @NeilCoffey I think we can safely say “for at least five millennia”. The inability to separate a preposition from its object is something that arose somewhere in Proto-Romance, and it’s never been relevant to any non-Romance languages. There’s no hint that ending sentences with prepositions has ever violated grammar in any stage of the known and reconstructed stages of language that have led to Modern English. Dec 23, 2016 at 11:01

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