Is It Okay To End A Sentence With A Preposition?

Occasionally, we grammar enthusiasts need to take a step back and lighten up a little bit. While there are some grammar rules that are hard and fast (I’m looking at you, comma splice), sometimes there is wiggle room. One of those wiggly rules is the assumption that sentences shouldn’t end in prepositions. Well, guess what? I’m here to liberate your pens and tell you that it’s okay for your protagonist to ask her cheating boyfriend who he was just with.

Quick review: What is a preposition? These puppies explain it pretty well.

Horses Beach

Prepositions: The Horses ride ON the beach while the tide comes IN. You see their reflections IN the water. Photo by Mike Baird.

If you’ve ever written yourself into a corner fretting over the preposition rule, breathe deep. It’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition, but there are a few caveats.

If the meaning of the sentence is still clear without the ending preposition, then remove it. In my hometown in the hills of western PA, it’s not uncommon to overhear someone on the phone asking, “Hey, where are you at?” It’s also not uncommon to overhear someone refer to a group of people as “yinz guys,” so I’d hardly claim my hometown as a beacon of good grammar and usage.

However, if the preposition is key to the sentence’s meaning, and moving it would cause unnecessary written acrobatics, it’s fine to end your sentence with the preposition. For example:

Carla wanted to run, but her feet refused. What was she waiting for?

Rewriting that last phrase would completely convolute the prose. No one asks, “For what was she waiting?” Come on now.

PRACTICE

Joe here. Liz couldn’t think of an exercise for this one so she put it in my hands. Big mistake, Bureman. Liz’s reverence for grammar is equal to my disdain for it. So today we’re going to take the “it’s kind of okay to end your sentence with a preposition” rule to its logical conclusion.

Let’s end every sentence with a preposition.

Go back to the puppies prepositions page if you need to, and try to write as many sentences ending with a preposition as you can in fifteen minutes. It’s okay if the sentences don’t go together, but you get bonus points for, one, the funniest sentence and, two, the best imitation of a Western Pennsylvanian.

Good luck, yinz guys!

About Liz Bureman

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.

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