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Ending Sentences with Prepositions

By Judy Vorfeld

You must never end a sen­tence with a prepo­si­tion! How often did you hear this in school? I have good news: you can end a sen­tence any way you choose to. Ending sen­tences with prepo­si­tions is some­thing I looked into. Thoroughly.

Let’s define a prepo­si­tion. It’s a con­nec­tive word that shows the rela­tion­ship (in terms of time, space, cause, own­er­ship, asso­ci­a­tion, accom­pa­ni­ment, or man­ner) between a noun (or pro­noun) and some other word in the sen­tence. Think “rela­tion­ship,” think “posi­tion,” when you think “preposition.”

Some of the most com­monly used prepo­si­tions: about, above, across, after, against, along, amid, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, con­cern­ing, dur­ing, except, for, from, in, inside, into, instead, of, off, on, onto, out, over, past, pend­ing, regard­ing, respect­ing, round, since, through, to, toward, under, until, unto, up, upon, with, within, without.

There are rules float­ing around – caus­ing con­flict and con­ster­na­tion – that were never really, truly, offi­cial gram­mar rules. They were often the per­sonal pref­er­ences of peo­ple who liked to speak out on the sub­ject. People in power. Like your fifth grade teacher or your great-aunt Matilda.

These good peo­ple are often the same ones who say (or said) we can never begin a sen­tence with “and,” “but,” “or,” “also,” or “how­ever.” But they’re mis­taken. And in both cases, it’s okay if it makes for an easy-to-understand sen­tence. However, make sure to use such words in very infor­mal communications.

Sometimes using a prepo­si­tion at the end of a sen­tence (ter­mi­nal prepo­si­tion) is awk­ward, and some­times it’s bet­ter to use one at the end. For example:

  • Awkward: It is not easy to know that about which you are thinking.
  • Natural: It’s not easy to know what you’re think­ing about.

If good com­mu­ni­ca­tion is your goal, just make sure that the sen­tence is clear for the reader or listener.

A help­ful site: Prepositions: Professor Charles Darling.


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