It's Usually Not Wrong to End a Sentence with a Preposition

by Tina Blue
August 8, 2000

Some of the "rules" of English grammar that you learned in school were devised by pedants who believed that English was inferior to Latin and should be improved by forcing it onto the Procrustean bed of Latin grammar. But English is descended from an ancestral German dialect, not from Latin, and certain of the rules based on Latin grammar simply do not fit the structure of English.

Often what looks like a preposition in an English sentence is really not a preposition but a part of the verb (the technical term is adverbial particle). Consider these verbs: to put, to put up, to put up with. Obviously these are not the same verbs, and equally obviously the words that look like familiar prepositions are actually a part of each of the last two verbs.

       Do you really want to be so "correct" as to complain, "That is the sort of thing up with which I will not put!" (Winston Churchill once used a similar remark to mock someone who had criticized him for ending a sentence with a preposition.)

Here's another example: There is no need to notify us about problems of which we are already aware.

Doesn't it sound far better to say: There is no need to notify us about problems that we are already aware of.

I just came across this example in a newspaper article this morning: Officials in Iraq still have not decided with whom he will be allowed to meet.

Now see how this version sounds to you: Officials in Iraq still have not decided whom he will be allowed to meet with.

This next example comes from one of my own articles: A verbal still retains some of the properties of the verb it was derived from. Aren't you glad I didn't write: A verbal still retains some of the properties of the verb from which it was derived? All right--I know some of you actually do wish I had written the sentence that way, but I'm guessing that to most of you, the first version sounds better.

Everyone is so afraid of being corrected, which is to say being embarrassed, that we find absurdities caused by this preposition "rule" not only in writing but in speech--especially in the speech of news reporters and media pundits. The next time you find yourself pronouncing or writing a bizarre, ugly sentence just to avoid that final preposition, consider using the language more naturally.

If you would like to read some comments concerning this issue from some of the most widely acknowledged experts on English grammar and usage, check out my article "Prepositions at the Ends of Sentences:Further Explanation of Why the 'Rule Is Wrong."

But do remember, it's still considered improper in some circumstances to end your sentence with a proposition.*

*No, that's not a typo or a misspelling.
Tell a friend about this page
email me
back to homepage
back to article index
Sign InView Entries
Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More
Find Other Great Resources
Improve Your English Grammar with WhiteSmoke