Is It Okay To End A Sentence With A Preposition?

by Liz Bureman and Alice Sudlow | 93 comments

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 (like the controversial claim that you can split infinitives). Today, we're tackling another wiggly rule: is ending a sentence with a preposition okay?

Ending a Sentence With a Preposition

The Quick Answer

Sure. Although some people still consider it an error, it's FINE to end a sentence with a preposition. Your main concern should be your reader, not your 8th grade grammar teacher.

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.

What Is a Preposition?

First, a quick review: what is a preposition? These cats explain it pretty well.

What is a preposition?

To sum up:

The prepositions above show the cats' locations in space. Let's add to the fun with these prepositions that show location in time:

  • I fed the cats at seven this morning.
  • Pamela will clean the seven litter boxes in the evening.

And just as a reminder, the prepositional phrase is the preposition plus its object and any modifiers. In our previous examples, the prepositional phrases are:

  • at seven
  • in the evening

Part of why some people and style guides don't like to have sentences end with a preposition is because the rest of the phrase is missing. 

Is Ending a Sentence With a Preposition Bad?

Recently, we talked about the “rule” that you shouldn't split infinitives and why it's really okay.

The bottom line: a few centuries ago, when our grammar was a murky mess, some outspoken grammarians decided to apply Latin rules to English, regardless of whether that was a sensible choice or not.

In this case, dramatist John Dryden was the first to take up the pen against ending sentences with prepositions, way back in 1672. He claimed that since you can't end a sentence with a preposition in Latin, you shouldn't do it in English, either.

The Problem With Following the Rule

English isn't Latin, though, and we structure our sentences very differently. It's easy to construct perfectly logical and grammatically sound sentences whose only “fault” is that they end with prepositions.

Plus, when you try to “fix” these sentences, you can end up with some pretty crazy twists, like this quote often misattributed to Winston Churchill:

“This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put!”

And as we recognize how arbitrary and baseless this rule was to begin with, we've moved away from strictly adhering to it. So 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.

That being said, there are a few caveats.

When It's NOT Okay to End a Sentence With a Preposition

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?” “Where are you” doesn't need any clarification, so cut that “at.”

Then again, 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. Informal writing has different expectations. 

But What About Academic Writing?

Okay, sure. If you are checking your English grammar in more formal writing, such as a paper for academia, you are very likely to encounter some sentence-ending preposition haters. Follow the guidelines.

Likewise, some business writing may ask you to pay attention to the placement of prepositions, and avoid ending sentences with them. Effective communication is writing that is clear and follows the expectations for the genre.

Ditch Dryden (Or Don't)

Is it okay to end a sentence with a preposition? Yep.

Is this claim controversial? You bet.

Still . . . maybe it's time to rethink how much we pay attention to those Latin-obsessed 17th century introverts.

Have you heard the “rule” (*cough* myth) that ending a sentence with a preposition is a grievous error? Do you ever end sentences with prepositions? Let us know in the comments section.

Need more grammar help? My favorite tool that helps find grammar problems and even generates reports to help improve my writing is ProWritingAid. Works with Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, and web browsers. Also, be sure to use my coupon code to get 20 percent off: WritePractice20

Coupon Code:WritePractice20 »

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 only to my mockery 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 to this list of prepositions 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.

When your time is up, post your practice in the Pro Practice Workshop here, along with how many prepositions you used.

Good luck, yinz guys!

How to Write Like Louise PennyWant to write like Louise Penny? Join our new class and learn how. Learn more and sign up here.

Join Class

Next LIVE lesson is coming up soon!

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.

Alice Sudlow is the Editor-in-Chief of The Write Practice and a Story Grid certified developmental editor. Her specialty is in crafting transformative character arcs in young adult novels. She also has a keen eye for comma splices, misplaced hyphens, and well-turned sentences, and is known for her eagle-eyed copywriter skills. Get her free guide to how to edit your novel at alicesudlow.com.

93 Comments

  1. Kristentorrestoro

    This always make me laugh, because my friends from the North will say things like, “Want to come with?” The writer and Southerner in me wants to hear the end of the sentence. But then I know there are areas I probably do that as well. :0)

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Oh yes, you Southerners are so much more proper than us Yanks.

    • Marianne

      I have heard that too, and had the same feeling. Very odd, but then I guess my “you alls” are odd to them. The thing about ending in prepositions, as you said, makes the listener wait for the end of the sentence.

  2. Jim Woods

    Dude, this is pretty hard!

    One day it was on.
    The next day it was off.
    What happened to happily ever after?
    To have her near.
    To have her around.
    Feelings of remorse and regret came up.
    Maybe one day, one day this would all pass by.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Nicely done, Jim. Cool poem considering you had such a strict form to work with.

    • Jim Woods

      Thanks, I’d love to stretch it out and write more (just what I need another work-in-progress right). The cool part is I don’t feel the prepositions are forced-it flows alright for the most part.

      I think it could make a cool song idea.

    • Jim Woods

      And yes, this is the by-product to listening to a lot of Kelly Clarkson. Haha.

    • TerriblyTerrific

      Pretty good!

  3. Tom Wideman

    This reminds me of my Senior Prom…yes, prom. The theme for the night was taken from Diana Ross’s hit song, “Do You Know Where You’re Going To” but the faculty decided it had to be reworded to “Do You Know to Where You Are Going.”

    Reply
    • Elaine

      Ending a sentence with a preposition is a practice up with which I will not put!

    • Oddznns

      was it yoder who did so much of that to words with?

    • Joe Bunting

      Incredible. Way to censor Diana Ross’ bad grammar, faculty. You showed her.

  4. Marianne

    Ending is prepositions certainly limited the amount that I can write in fifteen minutes. This is awful, very trite, but I’m not going to try it again. It made me have to think about each sentence separately and that ruined the flow and the content. Maybe my norm isn’t as bad as I think.

    Carlita took the letter out of the envelope, scanned it, and put it back inside. It was more than she could cope with. Peter was someone who she tried not to think about, someone who she certainly didn’t want to hear from. There affair was over. They had been lovers years ago, but he had left her behind. She once thought that he was the only honest man, she had ever come across. It must be said that her standards for honesty were, relative to our normal standards of decency and manners, above and beyond. He had never tried to borrow money from her, if he was short on cash, he just did without. Funny and charismatic, had been a pleasure to be around. Now she didn’t want to know that he was in town or anywhere near. Peter stranded her at the alter years ago and she hadn’t heard from him since. The letter was more, much more than she could cope with.

    Reply
  5. Marianne

    Ending is prepositions certainly limited the amount that I can write in fifteen minutes. This is awful, very trite, but I’m not going to try it again. It made me have to think about each sentence separately and that ruined the flow and the content. Maybe my norm isn’t as bad as I think.

    Carlita took the letter out of the envelope, scanned it, and put it back inside. It was more than she could cope with. Peter was someone who she tried not to think about, someone who she certainly didn’t want to hear from. There affair was over. They had been lovers years ago, but he had left her behind. She once thought that he was the only honest man, she had ever come across. It must be said that her standards for honesty were, relative to our normal standards of decency and manners, above and beyond. He had never tried to borrow money from her, if he was short on cash, he just did without. Funny and charismatic, had been a pleasure to be around. Now she didn’t want to know that he was in town or anywhere near. Peter stranded her at the alter years ago and she hadn’t heard from him since. The letter was more, much more than she could cope with.

    Reply
    • Elaine

      This is excellent. When I read it I want to know what happens next, not which preposition comes next.

    • Joe Bunting

      It’s not too bad. It might be a little heavy on the back story side of things, but you do some interesting things, like this line, “He had never tried to borrow money from her, if he was short on cash, he just did without.” That’s excellent characterization, and I definitely wasn’t expecting it.

  6. Marianne Vest

    Ending is prepositions certainly limited the amount that I can write in fifteen minutes. This is awful, very trite, but I’m not going to try it again. It made me have to think about each sentence separately and that ruined the flow and the content. Maybe my norm isn’t as bad as I think.

    Carlita took the letter out of the envelope, scanned it, and put it back inside. It was more than she could cope with. Peter was someone who she tried not to think about, someone who she certainly didn’t want to hear from. Their affair was over. They had been lovers years ago, but he had left her behind. She once thought that he was the only good, only honest man, she had ever come across. It must be said that her standards for honesty were, relative to our normal standards of decency and manners, above and beyond. He had never tried to borrow money from her, if he was short on cash, he just did without. Funny and charismatic, he had been a pleasure to be around. Now she didn’t want to know that he was in town or anywhere near. Peter stranded her at the alter years ago and she hadn’t heard from him since. The letter was more, much more than she could cope with.

    Reply
  7. Marianne Vest

    Ending is prepositions certainly limited the amount that I can write in fifteen minutes. This is awful, very trite, but I’m not going to try it again. It made me have to think about each sentence separately and that ruined the flow and the content. Maybe my norm isn’t as bad as I think.

    Carlita took the letter out of the envelope, scanned it, and put it back inside. It was more than she could cope with. Peter was someone who she tried not to think about, someone who she certainly didn’t want to hear from. There affair was over. They had been lovers years ago, but he had left her behind. She once thought that he was the only honest man, she had ever come across. It must be said that her standards for honesty were, relative to our normal standards of decency and manners, above and beyond. He had never tried to borrow money from her, if he was short on cash, he just did without. Funny and charismatic, had been a pleasure to be around. Now she didn’t want to know that he was in town or anywhere near. Peter stranded her at the alter years ago and she hadn’t heard from him since. The letter was more, much more than she could cope with.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Ending is prepositions certainly limited the amount that I can write in fifteen minutes. This is awful, very trite, but I’m not going to try it again. It made me have to think about each sentence separately and that ruined the flow and the content. Maybe my norm isn’t as bad as I think.

    Carlita took the letter out of the envelope, scanned it, and put it back inside. It was more than she could cope with. Peter was someone who she tried not to think about, someone who she certainly didn’t want to hear from. Their affair was over. They had been lovers years ago, but he had left her behind. She once thought that he was the only honest man, she had ever come across. It must be said that her standards for honesty were, relative to our normal standards of decency and manners, above and beyond. He had never tried to borrow money from her, if he was short on cash, he just did without. Funny and charismatic, Peter had been a pleasure to be around. Now she didn’t want to know that he was in town or anywhere near. Peter stranded her at the alter years ago and she hadn’t heard from him since. The letter was more, much more than she could cope with.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    I’m sorry there are five of the same from me. I was trying to add an image and edit the text.

    Reply
  10. Bethany

    I’m mustering the courage to take on this challenge. Yup, it’s a hard one. Ending a sentence with a preposition hurts!

    What are we afraid of? It’s difficult to turn the “writing” switch off. Sometimes the game face goes on. There is lots of insecurity to go around. Who are we writing for? What are we after? Living, feeling, and sharing –that’s what it’s all about. Finding the joy in each day is what we’re after. Happiness does not come until all expectations are blown behind. It’s a raging fire within. And many are finding that it’s Joe Bunting who’s fanning the flames, offering words of wisdom that we can’t do without.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      That’s cool. It seems that is might be harder to do exposition than action in this exercise. I’m not sure why I think that.

    • Joe Bunting

      Oh please. Don’t blame me for your creativity OR your happiness.

      Good job, though, Bethany. Way to take on the challenge. 🙂

    • Jim Woods

      Note to self- include the words Joe Bunting for a positive response. Haha 🙂

  11. Elaine

    I afraid some of these terminal words aren’t used as prepositions, but I did what I could and tried to be satisfied where I ended at.

    I was supposed to have spinach soufflé for lunch but I didn’t want that; I was starving and wanted a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich to tear into. Spinach is green and sticks to your teeth so you look funny on the outside even when you feel good within. And you know how it is when all the kids are just looking for someone to laugh at? They love it when they spot you and recognize their luck at finding someone to be mean to. All they want out of life is someone with spinach in his teeth, someone they can really dump on.

    The cafeteria lady slapped some soufflé onto my plate but I really didn’t want it so I begged her to take it off. She was so mean that she wouldn’t take it back and just told me to behave and to move along. I tried to stall the inevitable by telling her that I couldn’t move along while Boris the fat kid wouldn’t let me by. If I bumped Boris he wouldn’t hesitate for a heartbeat before beating me up.

    The cafeteria lady, having no regard for my life, looked at me over the sneeze guard and scowled down. Possessing more courage than smarts, I asked again if she couldn’t please switch the soufflé for a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich that would quell my fear and really bring me around. The cafeteria lady wasn’t made of stone, so finally she took my plate, dumped the soufflé, grabbed a PB&J, handed me a clean plate, and laid that beautiful sandwich across.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      This is funny. Spinach what a subject. Anne Lamott suggests in her book that you write about broccoli, 300 words. It was fun to do but I don’t think I could do it and end each sentence with a preposition.

    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks for practicing, Elaine. I liked how you used a semicolon in that first sentence just so you could end it with “into.” Very nice. 😉

      I loved this sentence: “All they want out of life is someone with spinach in his teeth….”

      And this, “And laid that beautiful sandwich across.” That has such a nice ring to it. Wonderful stuff, Elaine.

    • Oddznns

      This is so funny. And almost all the sentences end in prepostions. I love the way you recreate the middle/junior school lunch line.

    • Ruth Hochstetler

      Great job!

    • Chris

      LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!! Hurrah

    • drjeane

      This is great! I love that it is a story and not just a series of single sentences as in my contribution.

  12. Casey

    “What are you doing that for?”
    “I was trying to get under. That’s the only way to get aboard.”
    “You should have gone behind. I don’t know why you didn’t think of that before.”
    “I’m getting pretty near. Now, move over!”
    “No, you have to move across.”
    “What are you doing that for?”
    “Because you’re going to end up above.”
    “But this is the only way I can get in from.”
    “Are you trying to get inside?”
    “Well, through.”
    “You can try going around.”
    “I did that before.”
    ‘Try going beneath.”
    “Then I’d have to go between.”
    “Ah, cripe! I don’t know what you’re about.”
    “You can come along.”
    “Only if I can get underneath.”

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      I’m trying to imagine where they are. It must be a maze or maybe they’re working some kind of 3-D puzzle?

    • Casey

      I had in mind two boys trying to convert a treehouse into a booby-trapped pirate ship.

      I don’t handle dialogue well. I’ve been playing around with this kind of dialogue for a few months, hoping I can learn to convey a mood without having to tell the mood. I usually tell too much and show too little.

    • Joe Bunting

      I like this one:

      “Well, through.”

      And this one:

      “You can come along.”

      Very clever way to take on this exercise, Casey. I’m quite impressed. I agree with Marianne, though. I want to know what’s going on!

    • Chris

      It reminds me of the “Who’s on 1st base?” monologue. Very clever.

  13. Chris

    This is an outrageously funny exercise to start with. I can’t think of anything more hysterical than this. Also pretty challenging to come up with enough prepositions to end sentences on. Yesterday I went to Hobby Lobby and asked my mom if she wanted to come with. She said no and left me on my own. I wandered the aisles until I finally asked a clerk where the chunky yarns were. She told me where I might find them at. Finding them there I then searched to if I could find the proper-sized needles to accompany them.

    Happily armed with my yarn and needles, I journeyed back home to take my dog Lucy out. Out to play and to potty. She loves going out. Even when it’s fiendishly cold out.

    (Sorry, I first of all forgot to set my timer when I originally started, so – when I went back to check it still stubbornly said 15 mins! Then I hesitated a lot in between sentences, not the best way to do a timed exercise. Still, I had fun – sorry for the last bit – kind of not very creative 😛 )

    –Chris, happily diving in (finally, for better or for worse)

    Reply
    • Nancy

      Your first paragraph has some really good examples and demonstrates the need for the rule. The next paragraph has sentences that end in adverbs, not prepositions. It shows that this assignment was more complicates than it first appeared. But good stuff to consider.

    • Joe Bunting

      Haha, this one was terrible, “She told me where I might find them at.” Way to prove why sometimes it’s good to follow the rules!

      Nice job, Chris!

  14. Nancy

    Where was this post three days ago when I was struggling with ending with “for”? I had to choose and then submit. Did I make the right choice in this paragraph?

    When the black and gray coots paddle leisurely past my cabin, I know the winter solstice is upon us. And when they suddenly dart into a tight-knit raft, I know an eagle is looking for breakfast. I glance toward the sky to see a magnificent white-headed, white-tailed raptor soaring beneath winter’s gray sky. And I don’t know who to root for, the cute little coot separated from the raft or the beautiful eagle eyeing him.

    Later int he blog: And I don’t know who to root for, the monogamous eagles trying to feed their kids or the hard-working salmon just trying to have some.

    “For whom to root” would have been proper grammar, but I’m talking about birds here. Can you use whom for birds? I went with root for. What do you think–have too many years in cheerleading ruined my grammar?

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yes. You ruined your mind with your cheerleading.

      Just kidding 😉

      I think it sounds beautiful, Nancy. For whom would be awkward.

  15. Lia London

    Amen! This rule is so archaic. Based on Latin (like the split infinitive). I’m thinking that better proof of the need to chill out on this rule is to have a casual conversation with someone and never end a phrase with a preposition. You’ll sound like a total dweeb.

    From where do you come? In what line of work are you? At which school did you study? At what time did the party start? Of what are you thinking? To where are you going?

    Not very casual.

    Good post, Joe!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yeah that’s super awkward.

  16. Karen S. Elliott

    I had to memorize the list in school, junior high I think it was, “about above across…” Yes, I agree, sometimes it is just darn awkward to try to switch that preposition problem around. I cannot do the challenge as I’m too busy getting about.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      “Too busy getting about.” I see what you did there.

  17. Colleen G.

    Finally my Pittsburghese can shine. Enjoy! Today I rode the subway (T) to duwntuwn (downtown) to meet with my friend Juhn (John) where we decided to eat at Primanti’s (Yum) outside. After lunch we decided to go over to Station Square were we went on an Incline ride above. On the way up the mountain we could see the three rivers and beyond. What a site to see. What a city to grow up in (N that).

    Ok, a little harder than I thougth but fun to do.
    -Former Pgh gal

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Oh man, you get big bonus points. Love the parenthetical statements. Great job, Colleen 🙂

  18. Oddznns

    It’s New Year for me again, the real one for those of us who know where time begins and ends at. That’s just after the stroke of midnight with the moon disappeared to God knows where. We step out, new clothes on (even to the underwear inside). We breath in, New Year morning midnight air all around. We step over the threshold, crossing that intangible in-between.

    The foods we eat signal what our hopes are as we cross over. The fears we want to leave behind. My husband’s people set out five fruits – bananas, soursop, coconut, papaya, mango – homonyms for a very humble request for enough to spend, not daring to ask more from the heavens above. They eat bitter mellon – another homonym, the hope that bitterness will pass them by! In Singapore, smothered in comfort and efficiency, there’s no starvation, war and death to run from. We eat prawns, hah-hah to all the blessings we’ll be thankful for. We eat fish surplus that pile up and upon. We lay out many-segmented oranges and pomelos, sure our families and generations will multiply until … We don’t know what it’s like to hope otherwise, my countrymen, myself.

    For us, this is how it is … this is where it’s at. We live in a land of plenty and our eyes are fixed on a more plentiful beyond. We don’t realize what a big deal this is to be thankful for. And that too is a something to be thankful for!

    Happy Lunar New Year everyone, “Wanshi ruyi” – may everything happen as you wish!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      “The real one for those of us who know where time begins and ends at.” Oh really? 🙂

      I didn’t know this, “We step out, new clothes on (even to the underwear inside).” Interesting.

      Beautiful, “We live in a land of plenty and our eyes are fixed on a more plentiful beyond”

  19. Jonathon

    Prepositions are perfectly acceptable words to end sentences with! 🙂 I love how, when someone tried to tell Churchill that it was incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition, he quipped that it was “nonsense up with which I will not put.”

    Like the article said, though, the reason for this rule is the problem of people adding completely superfluous prepositions at the end (“where are we going to?”, “when is she arriving by?”, etc.)

    Reply
  20. H. Moreno

    I will avoid the preposition discussion and address a serious grammatical error by Liz Bureman in the last sentence of her opening paragraph: “…your protagonist to ask her cheating boyfriend WHO he was just with.” Please the pronoun should be WHOM.

    Reply
  21. ruchama burrell

    My favorite comment on this issue is a quote by an author, maybe GB Shaw: “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put. “

    Reply
  22. Lisa Paige

    I love your cat photos. You should do a blog post a day just on cats explaining grammar. HUZZAH!! You’ll be FAMOUS and RICH!! ;-0

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Ha great idea Lisa. 🙂

  23. Reagan Colbert

    I’ve always written my sentences the way that feels natural, preposition or not.
    Love the example, “For what was she waiting”. That kind of writing is reserved for old writings and poetry, (or if you have a character who insists on the preposition rule 🙂
    I was a grammar freak until I started writing. Then I started to learn that these sort of rules were made to be broken, and my writing sounded more natural. The WP had a lot to do with that, and I credit a lot of my knowledge to yinz guys!

    “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,”
    Reagan

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      That’s so cool, Reagan! I’m glad we helped loosen you up a little. 🙂

  24. juanita couch

    Where did it go to?
    What are you looking at?
    I need them around.
    Let’s talk to him aside.
    What are they worth?
    Where is it near to?
    Where are they from?
    That car was going as a fast pace.
    Why are you failing?
    Don’t put me down.

    Reply
  25. Kenneth M. Harris

    I remember teachers screaming at me about ending a sentence with a preposition.
    I tried to come up with at least four. I can only come up with three. Believe me, my grammar and punctuation is not that great. Here are the three. Let me know if they are okay? She has already been screamed at. What do you need to go to the store for.
    and My wallet is where. Ken

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Sorry to hear they screamed at you, Ken. That’s terrible, especially for such a silly “rule.”

  26. Helaine Grenova

    Hi all, it been awhile since I’ve been here, vacations nonwithstanding.

    It is time for the preposition to shine I thought when I arrived
    at my desk, calling my dog to join me with a “Hey where are you at?” A jingle is
    heard in the other room, the one with broken lights that make a trusty
    flashlight a necessity to navigate with. Peering into the messy room, I see a
    desk with my pup, a husky named Athwart, underneath. His laziness is something
    I will not put up with. I drag him out. Soon we are in the brightly lit room
    with me looking down at Athwart. He gives me a puppy grin that clearly says “what
    are you looking at me for?” I shake my head at him, but grin knowing that slept
    before.

    Reply
  27. yiro

    I never knew there is the need for such caution when using preps. Thanks Joe, for calling our attention to it.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I wouldn’t worry too much, Yiro. It’s something to be aware of just in case a teacher has a problem with it, but in every day conversation, English speakers use prepositions at the end of sentences constantly.

  28. Christine

    This post really touches a chord with me. Having worked as an ESL tutor, I’ve learned that there are two main things that make English a hard language to master. English grammar is simple, but the spelling is a headache—and our use of prepositions is a nightmare for an ESL student.

    In fact, I brought one poor francophone to the point of tears during the session where we went over the verb “to TAKE.” We covered take in, take someone in, take in a seam, take out, take it out on, uptake, take up, take up with, take down, take someone down, take out, take it out on, overtake, take over, a (company) takeover, take to s.t., intake, undertake, etc.

    She looked at me soberly and said, “Are ALL English verbs like this? Is there a put up, put down, put in, put out, put over?” I nodded.

    She didn’t sob, but she did look like a deer in the headlights. Poor girl. It was a bit cruel of me, I know. But, hey…innocence is over. You gotta buck up and carry on.

    There are ways around ending a sentence with a preposition. For example, in the sentence given above: “What was she waiting for?” You could also write, “But she was frozen.” Or “Why wouldn’t her feet move?”

    But it’s hard when a preposition is part of an idiomatic phrase, like “come on, pony up.” And preps make for pithy dialogue:
    “Shut up!” John ordered. “And get out.”
    “I’m all in,” Mary complained.
    “It’s not just you,” her sister retorted. “We’re all done for, but we have to keep up.”

    Reply
    • Helaine Grenova

      English grammar is tricky, and I’m saying that as a resident American for my entire life. Instead of having actual rules that carry over for everything, like most Spanish words, half of our verbs are irregular all of the time and the rest have strange spelling changes for plurals, or so it seems. I know that I am overexagerating, but some people seriously think that the plural of moose is meese.

    • Christine

      Actually, our verbs are fairly straight-forward. There aren’t three different sets of conjugations—plus numerous irregulars—such as one finds in French.
      We give it to him. In French we it to him give and depending on if “it” is masculine or feminine (a whole ‘nother headache!) the verb ending also changes.
      The spelling of plurals is like all English spelling: it usually depends on what language the word came from originally. When they made up English, they threw a number of neighboring languages into the pot along with the resident Celtic, Gaelic, and whatever. It was brewed for centuries, then they gave the pot a good stir and started pulling out words. How the words came out was how they were spelled, no matter how they were pronounced. If vowels got mixed up they did. Like siege and seize. The story of English. 🙂

    • Joe Bunting

      This is so true, Christine. Prepositions are usually one of the ways you can tell a native speaker from an ESL learner. They’re so complex, not just in English but in many languages. I definitely don’t envy English language learners though!

    • Christine

      We get this from the Dutch (or was it the Anglo-Saxons?) I don’t know about other languages, but the French don’t do this to their verbs. Unless they are picking it up from us now. English-language TV has had a profound impact of the world.

    • Joe Bunting

      Ha. Oh Winston.

  29. LaCresha Lawson

    I have kids and I always think that being a good parent is having good grammar. It is hard to do sometimes. I find it hard not to use a preposition in every day dialogue.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I love that LaCresha. Using good grammar yourself is definitely a good way to help your kids speak and write properly, which are important life skills. There’s nothing wrong with sing prepositions in every day dialogue. They’re essential! Keep using them. 🙂

    • LaCresha Lawson

      Thank you!

  30. wwesley

    I watched from my position abaft. The craft would soon pull abeam. We shall be happy to
    bring them aboard. Now, we’ll find what all the turmoil is about. For
    the knowledge has long been absent. The river flow carried us into
    the city where the bridge laid across. The place we crossed afore. We
    followed the street to the house where we lived comfortably after.

    The constabulary came at night in force we had no chance against. They marched us
    along. I found my friend alongside. The long column stretched fore
    and aft from our position amid. We were not the only ones marching
    with companions amidst. Most of the group found pleasure in the
    company we found ourselves among. In fact, it was an amiable group to
    be amongst.

    A grammatically incorrect message arrived with the hour not prefaced by an. It was
    not a problem; we knew the time and place with help amenst. For the
    dilemma at hand, the message proved apropos. We arrived, and as
    ordered drew apud. Danger lurked around. Maybe it was time to cast
    hope aside.

    The thunder of
    hooves brought steeds with warriors astride. I’ll never know how
    they came the country athwart. A warrior held a pike with the head of
    the enemy’s leader atop.

    Reply
    • Christine

      Are abaft, abeam, amenst and apud really words? I need to get out my dictionary and check these out! 🙂

  31. dduggerbiocepts

    I was married in to an Erie, Pennsylvanian family for three decades – for them it was “youse guys.”

    Reply
  32. Mark Noldy

    Thank you for settling that once and for all! Yinz guys are great with the writin’ ‘n ‘nat! (IUP grad!)

    Reply
  33. Mike Sherer

    I’m with the ‘rules be damned’ crowd. Whatever promotes the story.

    Reply
  34. Ruth Hochstetler

    Ok, so I’m writing today. What for? I want to get better and I know this is the way to ramp my skills up. It just feels like I’ve got obstacles I just can’t get around. I want to read a book, listen to a podcast, try a new recipe, or anything else I enjoy doing that turns me aside. Yet this is my goal for today and beyond. I like writing and seeing the words come together and what will pop up on the page next. So I’m knocking this word craft out. I will take the challenge and head up.irs feeling good; may o continue to make this happen the whole week through.
    I’m thankful for places to get inspiration from. The Write Practice is a given. But I’m also among to buy a book for writing prompts, hoping to find ideas I like. I’m scheming and drraminf of ways to inspire me to get aboard. I’ll carry a notebook to record any creative omens that come along. I want to carve outa niche of time besides.

    Fifteen minutes goes fast past. I need to let things flow and not edit , which my natural instinct fights against. The bottom line- I need to step it up!

    Reply
  35. Bella Gonzalez

    Theo lifted his gaze to the sky as he climbed aboard
    He was awestruck by the number of stars above
    But he couldn’t fathom the depths of the water beneath
    As he stood at the bow of the Polina he pondered all that is beyond
    For a moment he was no longer concerned about an engine failing
    Nor was he concerned with who he was inside
    His thoughts were consumed with the water underneath
    The miles of water that calmed his thoughts
    The forceful waves that carried him on
    This is where he came from
    This is what he lived for
    And it is that which he stands by

    Reply
  36. SPL

    I tend to be pretty anal about ending sentences in prepositions. Recently, I ran into a sentence that I just couldn’t resolve in the 3 minutes I dedicated. The sentence ended in “I can confirm if everyone is accounted for”. Is there a reasonable, non-robotic-sounding way to end this sentence?

    Reply
  37. Rich McMullen

    Come aboard.
    Prepositions: that’s what we’re talking about!
    If you want to see an example, just look above.
    By studying those sentences long enough, I hope the lesson will come across.
    We’re usually taught to have prepositions come before their object, but in this lesson, we make them come after!
    Some may argue this is not a rule we can fight against.
    Well, I’m not one to just go along to get along.
    To get a better sense of what I’m talking about, just look around.
    If it isn’t clear yet, don’t worry; I’ll show you what to look at.
    You’ve probably never taken a grammar lesson like this before.
    Leave your prejudices behind.
    They won’t help you below.
    There is a fine line between the two sides that we’ll be walking between.
    Take a look into the great beyond.
    It’s an indicator of what’s to come.
    OK, get ready; we’re going down.
    There are things we need to keep an eye out for.
    When I tell you to run, that means there’s something to run from.
    Don’t think or look back, just run, or you’ll be sucked in.
    And once you’re in, I won’t be able to rescue you from the inside.
    Now you know what you’ve gotten yourself into.
    I can see my words had too much impact; you need to worry a little less.
    A coiled snake is what you want to act like.
    Alert and ready, with a quick reaction when danger is near.
    You need to do this, your fear notwithstanding.

    Reply
  38. Elizabeth

    Silently she stared out of the window as the musty train moved along. The trip had been a rather spontaneous idea and the afterthought of uncertainty stirred within. Across the isle from where she sat, a couple who appeared to be perfectly happy, acting as newlyweds who could not wait to get each other off. “Sickening” she thought and turned her eyes around. The scenery had changed from forests to an open landscape as the train began approaching a bridge overlooking a lake. Thoughts swam around in her head as she again, questioned uprooting her content and normal life for a trip she was still unsure she wanted to complete. The small lake had white frothy waves that sloshed upon the shore below. Tourists, thirsty for a photo, rushed to the window like school children. It was in this moment that the train stalled, that the baby at the front of the train started its unnaturally high-pitched screaming, and the track began to underneath. It was moments later when she acted with pure survival skills opening the window and saying under her breath “jump now, or die unremembered.” Uneasiness consumed her as she climbed out of the window and never looked behind.

    Reply
    • retrogeegee

      Intriguing use of sentences ending with prepositions. It makes me curious as to what happens next. Is it the first paragraph of an actual story?

  39. collie

    ‘Where have you been? Have you been inside?’
    ‘ I been around. Where you been at?’
    ‘oh round and about’..

    Seriously, you can’t compare modern English, to that of the 17th century. Most people today, don’t speak English correctly in any case. It has completely morphed. What is amazing is that people can still understand it.

    Reply
    • retrogeegee

      I love your sentences in the the practice, and find your observation worthy of future discussions !!!

  40. Rag Mars

    What will happen to all those polite timid law abiding students, always painstakingly
    following all the rules… did any of those
    who became Giants care about any norms or rules…the STORY is infinite MORE important than any way you may
    ever tell it, no matter how BAD you tell it…especially telling those things,
    that nobody can ever tell…

    Reply
  41. drjeane

    All aboard.
    What is this journey about?
    Look for the answer above.
    The rules for this are absent. [Except, I think in this case absent isn’t used as a preposition.]
    What are we here for? [I’ve given up on going in order with the list of prepositions – couldn’t think of a sentence I could end with across.]
    I thought I had that answer before.
    The answers have come from beyond.
    We can accept that they are also inside.

    Reply
  42. Mainstream_Jim

    Ah . . . Jim Woods . . . you mean one day this would all pass.

    Reply
  43. Molly Frink

    Thanks for this freedom to use the language smoothly. I am bugged by prepositions at the ends of sentences as many of you are, but I do use them that way when the rearrangement of words becomes awkward. However, I make a distinction between adverbs and prepositions. In the sentence, “He chased the dog out,” I classify out as an adverb that tells where he chased the dog. In the sentence ” I asked whom I should address the letter to,” the preposition to has an object (whom) that appears earlier in the sentence, making to a preposition. A more accurate sentence would be “I asked to whom I should address the letter.”
    Note also that in the opening example “After you pet the cats..” after is a subordinating conjunction, not a preposition. (So is before) So many crazy distinctions in English grammar!

    Reply
  44. S.Ramalingam

    I am in.In the course of the conversation between characters or even in a non-fiction ,say,while writing an article, it is ok to end a sentence with a preposition.For example, during a cricket match, we can say, ‘friends, the match is on.’Another friend asks: ‘How long the match will go on? About two and a half hours.
    Please answer my question: How long the match will go on?
    ‘That’s what I am talking about’.
    ‘How long?’
    ‘Perhaps in 2 1/2 hours’

    Reply
  45. S.Ramalingam

    I can even say the English language has developed by leaps and bounds only by breaking rules.You need not do it consciously, but, do it as a creator.

    Reply
  46. Robert Ranck

    Liz, if yinz was from western Pennsylvania maybe a half a century ago, the question “Where are you at?” would have immediately gotten the answer, “Between the A and the T!’ particularly if the question were directed to a high-school English teacher.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Through preposition | Bewfalla - [...] Is It Okay To End A Sentence With A Preposition? | The Write Practice [...]
  2. The Turndog Tales – 14/01 – 20/01 « Turndog Millionaire - [...] Article This Way [...]
  3. The Turndog Tales – 14/01 – 20/01 | Strategic Marketing for Writers & Businesses | - [...] Article This Way [...]
  4. 100 Writing Practice Lessons & Exercises - […] Is It Okay To End A Sentence With A Preposition? […]
  5. Greetings Fellow Zombie Turkey Fans! - Zombie Turkeys - […] Finally, we’ll close with the classic question: Is It Okay To End A Sentence With A Preposition? […]
  6. Phrasal Verbs: The Subtle Difference Between Setup and Set Up - […] usually includes a verb, like “set,” and a preposition, like “up.” Together, the two words mean something completely different…
  7. Setup vs. Set Up: The Truth About Phrasal Verbs – Books, Literature & Writing - […] usually includes a verb, like “set,” and a preposition, like “up.” Together, the two words mean something completely different…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Say Yes to Practice

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts:

Popular Resources

Books By Our Writers

The Girl Who Broke the Dark
- Evelyn Puerto
A Shadow Stained in Blood
- Ichabod Ebenezer
Box of Shards
- K.M. Hotzel
109
Share to...