During study Business-English I am wondering about the use of "purpose" in a "What" Question.

For what purposes should this be ?

What purposes should this be for ?

Are both sentences / questions correct ?

1 Answer 1


Based on Cambridge dictionary (see here* also) both are correct.

"What purposes should this be for?" - correct ✅

"For what" purposes should this be?" correct. ✅

But the first is considered as informal style, especially in speaking, the preposition may be separated and placed at the end of the question clause.

But according to Oxford dictionary

"What purposes should this be for?" - correct ✅

"For what" purposes should this be?" incorrect. ❌

It's a little bit weird since this dictionary by itself states there that "There’s no necessity to ban prepositions from the end of sentences. Ending a sentence with a preposition is a perfectly natural part of the structure of modern English."

Anyway in fact people use both structures that you showed in your question.

*See also here in Cambridge dictionary (under the title: What...for?)

  • What would be the best academic phrasing ? EG. "What function is that for ?" or "What functions should our product ideas include ?" Should also be fine, isn't it ?
    – FrankMK
    Mar 28, 2018 at 18:07
  • Your tow examples are not equal for a comparison. (If you asked me for example about the differences of "What function is that for?" and "Is that function for what" then I would chose the first option.) Anyway both of your examples are grammatically correct. Did I answer your question or maybe you have something to make clearer? Mar 28, 2018 at 19:33
  • 1
    At this stage of studying, where it is importent for me to get more and more confident with the phrasing of a sentence, answers like yours are very welcome and helpful.
    – FrankMK
    Mar 29, 2018 at 8:49

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