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This has been discussed millions of times I guess, however, I have noticed, in years, that not all prepositions can start a sentence but feel just fine at the end of it. My teacher never liked us placing a preposition at the end. She always tried to correct us, however, I always preferred placing a preposition at the end of a sentence.

However, I wish to examine a few sentences about which I am not sure:

  • Where are you going to?
  • Where to are you going?
  • To where are you going?

Are both the second and the third possible or is only the first sentence possible?

Is it impossible to use about, on, for, at, in at the beginning?

  • About what are you writing? (What are you writing about?)
  • On what does this depend? (What does this depend on?)
  • At where is he? (Where is he at?)
  • For who are doing this? (Who are you doing this for?)

However, there are prepositions that can't be used at the end of a sentence, like "until, by, from, out of, onto and into", right?

  • In most contexts the preposition wouldn't be included at all in your first three examples (unless for emphasis, in which case either where or to would probably carry heavy stress). Example #2 is non-idiomatic for most native speakers, and #3 is a dated / formal usage that you'd rarely want (that's often, but not always, the case with "fronted" prepositions). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 29 '17 at 16:53
  • @FumbleFingers Excuse me, but how can you omit the prepositions? Different meaning will occur and with the verb depend we can't omit on – SovereignSun May 29 '17 at 16:59
  • I was specifically talking about the first three examples, which woul;d all net down to the same thing if you take out the preposition (with no significant effect on meaning). To depend on is a "phrasal verb", so you can't ditch on, but my point about fronting being a stylised formal applies to 3 of your last four examples. I'm not sure about Where is he at?, which is a slangy / dialectal form (mainstream speakers wouldn't include at at all, let alone "front it). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 29 '17 at 17:07
  • Where already means at which, so "where is he at?" is ungrammatical. After a preposition, whom is needed. "For whom..." – user178049 May 29 '17 at 19:44
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OK, here's the scoop on this usage: Please consider the utterance (I'm working with speech here).

A) the repetition of the preposition (stranding the preposition) is not needed:

1) declarative: I'm going to New York later this afternoon.

2) interrogative: Where are you going later this afternoon? Notice how the TO disappears in the question.

Ah, but then why do people say: Where are you going to [this afternoon]?

There are various answers. They are not educated speakers or they are sloppy speakers. The fact is that in the question to is not needed. That said, people do speak like that. Would a speaker like myself say it? Probably not. Except for emphasis: Where did you say you were going to?

Where are you going to?

Where to are you going?=not idiomatic or heard To where are you going?=not idiomatic

1) Declarative: He is at the game? [standard];

2) Interrogative: Where is he? The preposition, as with to above, is not needed.

3) Where's he at? or Where is he at? [marked as uneducated or dialectal, as in Black English or common varieties where people aren't really paying attention to their own speech]

At where is he? = not idiomatic, not heard

B) stranded prepositions (aka hanging prepositions)

Let's start with a declarative sentence: I'm writing about horror movies.

Interrogative (standard speech): What are you writing about?

Not repeating the object of the preposition is called preposition stranding and it is very common in spoken English and is used by native English speakers. /About what are you writing/ though grammatical would never be heard, really.

1) Declarative: This depends on the student's attitude:

2) Interrogative: standard speech: What does this depend on? More of a written form: On what does this depend? But, it could be said.

The last example: For whom are you doing this? Can be stranded in standard speech: Whom are you doing this for? Please note also that here /who/ is often used in place of /whom/ and is acceptable in some circles, but not in formal speech. However, the stranded preposition is fine.

  • I didn't quite understand the "hanging prepositions" – SovereignSun May 29 '17 at 17:35
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    A hanging or stranded preposition. It means you do not need to repeat the object. It's OK to just end the sentence with the preposition. In many cases, you actually need it and in others you do not. Going to a place, you do not need it. Give yourself some time with this. It's tricky. – Lambie May 29 '17 at 17:43

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