Ending Sentences With Prepositions

In Latin, there is a rule that you cannot end a sentence with a preposition. In English, there is no such rule. However, some people look down on the practice and there may be times when it is preferable to structure writing in a way that avoids it.

Before you can understand how to handle this situation, it helps to know a little more about prepositions.

What are prepositions?

Prepositions are words that connect nouns, pronouns, and phrases to the other parts of a sentence. They show a logical link or a connection to an object in space or time. Some common prepositions include: of, on, to, over, beneath, above, across, during, among, throughout, from, up, and with.

Here are some examples with emphasis on the preposition:
The cat sat beside the table.

The boy climbed up the hill.

The woman was happy during her morning run.

The prepositions in these sentences lead to an answer of where or when an action occurred. Where did the cat sit? Beside the table.

An acceptable ending?

Some people firmly believe that it is never appropriate to end a sentence with a preposition. Many grammarians disagree. Despite the admonitions of some school teachers, there is no formal rule in the English language banning prepositions from the end of sentences. In fact, most grammarians agree that, in many situations, it’s a fine place for prepositions to be.

There are, however, cases where it is not acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. A simple rule of thumb is take away the preposition and see if the sentence still has the same meaning. If it does not, the preposition is necessary and can be left at the end. If the sentence still has the same meaning without the preposition, that means the preposition is unnecessary and it should be removed.

For example, "Where are you from?" is appropriate. "Where are you going to?" is not.

Some sentences, though grammatically correct, sound better when they are arranged so that the preposition is not at the end of the sentence. Ending sentences with prepositions can also give writing a more casual sound, which may merit avoiding the practice in formal writing.

How to avoid prepositions at the end of sentences

To avoid controversy, it may be best to avoid ending sentences with prepositions whenever possible. In many cases, sentences can easily be rewritten. This may lead to stronger sentences as well. Consider these options when rewriting sentences:

1. Rearranging the words
Example: "Rearranging the words is something I hadn't thought of." 
To correct this sentence, simply rearrange the phrases within it: "I hadn't thought of rearranging the words."

2. Restructuring the sentence into two separate thoughts
Example: "Did you read that story we couldn't stop laughing at?" 
This sentence would be more clear if it were divided: "We couldn't stop laughing at that story! Did you read it?"

3. Add "which" to the preposition and rearrange (e.g. "of" to "of which", "from" to "from which")
Example: "It doesn't help to tell me about problems I'm already aware of" 
In formal writing, try changing this to: "It doesn't help to tell me about problems of which I am already aware."

4. Add missing phrases
Example: "I won't go on." 
The rest of the thought may be implied, however adding it makes for a clear sentence: "I won't go on the boat."

While there is no rule in the English language to keep one from ending a sentence with a preposition, there may be times when you choose to avoid the practice. By simply rearranging your structure or adding­ new wording, you can easily find ways to rewrite nearly any sentence.

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