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Richard Nordquist

Prepositions—Ending Sentences With

By March 26, 2008

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Try asking a few of your friends or colleagues if they remember any rules of English grammar. Almost certainly at least one will say, "Never end a sentence with a preposition."

Bryan Garner wasn't the first to call it a "superstition":

The spurious rule about not ending sentences with prepositions is a remnant of Latin grammar, in which a preposition was the one word that a writer could not end a sentence with. But Latin grammar should never straightjacket English grammar. If the superstition is a "rule" at all, it is a rule of rhetoric and not of grammar, the idea being to end sentences with strong words that drive a point home. That principle is sound, of course, but not to the extent of meriting lockstep adherence or flouting established idiom.
(Garner's Modern American Usage, Oxford University Press, 2003)

For the complete article, go to Is It Wrong to End a Sentence With a Preposition?


November 21, 2008 at 9:27 am
(1) Scott Catledge says:

If good writers end sentences with a preposition, why did the author only use secondary sources in lieu of quoting such a sentence?

June 22, 2009 at 12:56 pm
(2) Rereader says:

In response to Scott, a few random dips into Bartlett:

“The smallest worm will turn being trodden on.” Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Pt. III

“If music be the food of love, play on;” Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

“To put an antic disposition on.” Shakespeare, Hamlet

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.” Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac

And of course, Winston Churchill: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

February 11, 2010 at 10:52 am
(3) Rman says:

In reference to Scott’s comment, Nordquist explains the “rule” as a spurious correlation to latin. No quotes are even necessary.

My issue is the opening sentence of the article. Even a strict descriptivist would place a comma before the conjunction “And” introducing the next sentence just for readability.

If you want to respond that everyone begins sentences with coordinating conjunctions, I know that. The problem is that people slip into it when it is obviously the wrong time.

March 26, 2010 at 12:51 pm
(4) a chris says:

My only objection was the spelling “straightjacket.” I see some dictionaries are accept this as a variant of “straitjacket” though, so I can’t say that out loud, even though I disagree.


August 20, 2010 at 11:13 am
(5) Mark F says:

“Even a strict descriptivist would place a comma before the conjunction “And” introducing the next sentence just for readability.”

This is fun. Let’s find the missing comma.

November 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm
(6) dwg says:

“Even a strict descriptivist would place a comma before the conjunction “And” introducing the next sentence just for readability.”

I also noticed missing comma. However, I think the “And” starting the second sentence of the article is actually completely extraneous, and shouldn’t even be there to begin with. Or would that be, “with which to begin”?

December 4, 2010 at 8:01 pm
(7) Bob Lewis says:

Ha! So … a preposition is something you can happily end a sentence with? (sic) Oh! And in Latin it was a “superstition” that couldn’t be used to end a sentence with? (sic) Cobblers!

MOST prepositions in use in English today should actually be used as a pair of sequential words (to & where, from & whom etc.). Instead they are used separately with the preposition ending up in last position. Conversely, in Latin they are incorporated into a single word, just as they used were in old(er) English.

The same is also true of German and several other languages. e.g. Woher kommst du? In the original English form the exact same question would be: whence comest thou? Similarly the Latin: Quo vadis? – Whither goest thou? No preposition at the end of any of those because one is not required, it’s already been incorporated into woher, quo, and whence.

Old(er) English also had other single word equivalents some (of which) are still used, occasionally, today. e.g. whither (“to where”), yon(der) (“over there”), whence (“from where”), thence (“over there” & “since then”), hence (“from here”).

So, simply because people are too lazy, sloppy or plain bone-idle to learn to both speak and write with precision we should just ignore the rules?

I think not.

PLEASE! Let’s STOP this perpetual dumbing-down of language generally, and of English especially. Let’s start raising the bar again (it’s currently below limbo height) by refusing to accept low quality, poorly communicative and generally sloppy English usage.


February 1, 2011 at 11:02 am
(8) Bill Brown says:

I’m with (7) Bob Lewis. I was asked late yesterday to accept and to begin to incorporate as a new brand tagline “Brands Consumer Respond To” (sic). Deep in my subconscious, the ghost of Mrs. Hyrinio, High School freshman year (honors) English instructor, was stirred, causing me a restless evening’s sleep marked by mental contortions.

“PLEASE! Let’s STOP this perpetual dumbing-down of … English …[continued].” Indeed. But I fear it is hopeless. Texting and fixed 140 character Tweets mean more language depravity are sure to be coming over the horizon.

February 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm
(9) Izzy says:

The problem with the Grammatical Elitists is that they imagine some Golden Era of Language to which all subsequent ones must conform. Language changes constantly now and it always has. As others have mentioned, English borrows heavily from many other languages, and it would be highly inappropriate to chisel grammar rules in stone.

March 6, 2011 at 12:37 am
(10) Jmorrse says:

Maybe grammatical rules should not be chiseled in stone. Instead they should be set into type and programmed into software.

May 27, 2011 at 11:56 am
(11) grammar crazy says:

mks mi crzy. wna say: whynchu stp tryna mk ths kyna wrytn all gud with?

The definition of “preposition” (pre + position) is “place before”. Perhaps we could change the name of the part of speech and you can use it any way you want. (…to…?)

“Preposition-at-the-end-of-a-sentence” is an oxymoron. Oxymoron: ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Greek oxumōron, neuter (used as a noun) of oxumōros ‘pointedly foolish,’ from oxus ‘sharp’ + mōros ‘foolish.’

So, is the person who adds an unnecessary word, such as: “Where are you at?” an oxy-MORON? By the way, the correct answer is, “I’m at Denver.”

A fellow grammar crazy friend gave me a card. Two women are having coffee. Speech bubble: “Where’s your birthday party at?” Second woman: “Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.” Open the card: “Where’s your birthday party at, b-tch?”

August 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm
(12) David says:

Generally speaking, I try not to end a sentence with a preposition. The reason behind this being that a preposition is a word used to show one noun in relation to another. That said, it seems very silly and somewhat lazy to end a sentence with a preposition, and this is almost comparable to writing a mathematical equation with the operations and numbers out of order.

1 2 + = 3

You may have understood what occurred in the above equation, but that does not mean that the equation was written properly. Furthermore, I think it sounds much more intelligent and much more interesting to not end sentences with a preposition. I think that it adds a certain “nostalgic” quality one’s speech. . .

November 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm
(13) Guy says:

This post is pseudo trolling *Warning*

This is all a matter of expectation……

@grammar crazy

I once had an English teacher tell me that decimated wasn’t a good word to use to describe destruction because it had to mean that the destruction involved splitting an item into 10 equal pieces. You remind me of them.


Just because your used to seeing equations laid out with operators between operands it doesn’t mean its the most logical way of describing an equation. In fact it is not. Confusion sets in with the order of operations such as 3 + 2 * 4 / 5. You need to introduce rules about which order the operators would apply and new characters to help make the equation more readable. 3 + 2 * (4 / 5)…… Alternatively, a notation that called for the listing operands followed by the operators could be the standard…..”Properly” hah, I scoff at your notions of propriety.

January 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm
(14) Otis says:

I scoff at your incorrect use of “your” and “its.”

July 4, 2012 at 11:09 am
(15) T.m.B. says:

Come on. You’re putting me on. Dumbing down the language? Or retrieving it from a bygone classicist’s woeful attempt to superimpose a Latin structure and definition (whence the word “pre” position comes) over a preexisting language that had preexisting grammatical rules that worked perfectly well for its speakers and still does? Please go back through all available English texts and find this mythical time when speakers never ended sentences with prepositions . . . . What are you waiting for?

August 5, 2012 at 2:13 pm
(16) Joe Dittrich says:

The smart-aleck in me has to share this:
A mother takes a book about Australia upstairs to her son’s room before dinner, but he has no interest in hearing her read it. At bedtime, she returns to his room with the same book. He sees it and says, “What did you bring that book that I didn’t want to be read to out of before about Down Under up for after?”

August 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm
(17) Horace Dalmolin says:

Ending a sentence with a prepostion is grammatically correct…
1) When the preposition is required to complete the meaning of the verb.
Exs.: Move – Move on; Go. – Go on,up,down…
2) When the preposition produces euphony – good sound…
Exs.: These are the kind of people I like to work for. (These are the kind of people for whom I like to work.) What is the fuss all about?

John Dryden was the first to use preositions at the end of sentences. And when someone pointed it out to him, he tryed to lmake changes, but he was unable…
Additionally, the first step in understanding grammar is to know the function of the parts of speech in taxonomy and in syntax…
My book, “The New English Grammar” -tatepublishing.com – explains how to achieve clear and concise communication…
Horace Dalmolin, Ed. D.

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