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When I learned English at school, I was taught that I should not end a sentence with a preposition.

Is it correct to end a sentence with a preposition?

To avoid starting a sentence with a conjunction, I don't write sentences similar to "I miss you. And your kisses." Is there a similar way to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition?

6

Ending sentences with prepositions is controversial to some. This rule was taken from Latin, and that is probably the rule that you were taught. However, imposing rules of Latin grammar on English usage is nonsense. Sometimes it is correct to end a sentence with a preposition, but not always.

You should avoid usage such as "Where are you at?" because "at" is superfluous. It should be, "Where are you?"

However, "Where did you come from?" is acceptable. The alternate form, "From where did you come?" would seem awkward to a native speaker.

At least in formal writing, it is best to avoid ending sentences with prepositions as long as there is an alternative that is not terribly awkward.

  • 4
    Nah - it hasn't been "controversial" for generations. – FumbleFingers Jan 28 '13 at 6:00
  • 3
    If you're writing for class in school and the teacher says that you should not end a sentence with a preposition, then don't. Likewise if you are writing for a publication where the editor says not to do this, or other circumstances where someone other than you is making up the rules. Otherwise, do it freely, because the rule is stupid. – Jay Jan 14 '15 at 15:28
  • The at in Where are you at? is not superfluous. It uses at to ask about a more pinpointed location. – Alan Carmack Jun 18 '16 at 5:37
  • *Whence come you? – Davo Nov 28 '17 at 12:35
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Carefully avoiding terminal prepositions has been, for at least a generation, a dead letter. There are doubtless people my age who still practice it; but nobody except a few cranks think it a defensible ‘rule’. It survives in public consciousness largely because dogmatic ‘descriptivists’ enjoy using it as a stick to whack ‘prescriptivism’.

There are, to be sure, times when ending on a preposition is undesirable—for instance, if you want to end a sentence on a ringing call to action—but that's a musical consideration, not a grammatical one. And with particle verbs, where the particle-that-looks-like-a-preposition may be moved after the object, it’s a bad idea to move it so far away that the reader or hearer loses track of the connection. See SF's comment below.

Be guided by your ear in speech, and by the authors you admire in writing; and if you are so happy as to achieve publication, fall in with whatever your editor requires.

  • RE 2nd paragraph: Of course one could think of sentences that end with a preposition that do not make sense. I recall reading a sentence once that went, "I possibly cannot imagine this idea where you got it from, at." But of course the fact that one can write a sentence that violates some rule and is incoherent doesn't prove that the rule is valid. One would have to demonstrate that it is not possible to write a clear and coherent sentence that DOES violate the rule. – Jay Jan 14 '15 at 15:32
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No prepositions at the end of sentences?

That is a rule up with which I shall not put.   ~ W. Churchill*

somebody had to

This has been well hashed out in its own right by the EL&U guys, and also dealt with in related questions such as this and this. (The latter link contains an awesome example sentence that ends in 5 prepositions ~ Mother, what did you bring that book that I don't like to be read to out of up for?)

Also taken care of by Oxford, and Merriam-Webster, so it's the same for BE & AE. The M-W link for some reason is in video form, but you get a fairly concrete answer within 21 seconds.

So, in short, feel free to end your sentences with prepositions, from aboard, through to without via inside out. It's perfectly legal.

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    +1 Somebody had to, I almost did (with the same justification). I, for one, am not giving this fight up. Oops. – hunter2 Jul 31 '13 at 9:14
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One preposition placed close to its verb is okay to end a sentence with.

But avoid it if you bring more than one preposition, or a preposition placed very far from its verb to end your sentence with up.

  • I downvoted mcalex's version because I don't think it really answers anything, but I must admit this cunning pair of examples are both much funnier and manage to be (potentially) enlightening, so +1! – FumbleFingers Jan 28 '13 at 5:59
0

Strictly speaking a preposition is a word that is placed before an object ("pre" + "position"). If the word appears at the end of a sentence it is by definition not a preposition. So what is such a word? A brief history: If you go back to the ancient Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language, from which many languages of Europe and South Asia come, there was no such thing as a preposition. There were only particle words that expressed relationships between verbs and objects (our modern prepositions derived from these particles). In Latin the concept of particles disappeared almost entirely with these words becoming prepositions and adverbs. In the Germanic languages (which English belongs to) these particles still exist, though they are a bit different from PIE. Basically words are not necessarily strictly prepositions but can be used more flexibly than in Latin, French, Spanish, and the rest of that language family. When the study of grammar came to Britain it was based on Latin and French, both of which lack a concept of particles (at least in the sense that German and English have them). So the early grammarians disdained the idea of seeing words that can be used as prepositions also being placed at the end of clauses and sentences. They deemed this bad grammar, which was of course untrue. Ever since this myth has persisted and even today some English teachers still teach there students that it is better to have an awkward, clumsy sentence than to end it with a "preposition".

  • This is a nice answer, but listing some sources would improve it. – Davo Oct 30 '17 at 20:19

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