Can You End A Sentence With A Preposition?

You’ve likely heard this grammatical rule: you should never end a sentence with a preposition. And, at first glance, this rule does seem to make a little sense. Typically, a preposition is followed by its object (and other modifiers) as in the sentence My old shirt is full of holes. In a sentence like this, it would sound a bit ridiculous to end the sentence with a preposition as in Holes were what my old shirt was full of.

If you were to follow this rule, then, you would never end any sentence with words like with, of, for, from, by, or to. Well, we just want to say that this is one silly rule that you just shouldn’t listen to!

What is a preposition and why do we use them?

A preposition is a word that can grammatically be used to begin a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase is a phrase that is used in a sentence to modify parts of speech such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Prepositional phrases typically answer questions such as Why?, How?, When?, Where?, and What kind? For example, in the sentence We went to Montana by plane the prepositional phrase by plane explains how we got to Montana.

Examples of prepositions include:

  • at, by, to, of, in, out, around, about, under, for, before, after, up, down, between

Here are some examples of prepositional phrases:

  • of water, by the time I got back, to my pets, under the table, around town

To learn more about prepositional phrases and how we use them in sentences, check out this detailed guide.

Can you end a sentence with a preposition?

Let’s just cut to the chase: you absolutely can end a sentence with a preposition! The “rule” that says you can’t really has no basis in actual writing. In fact, major style guides often consider this “rule” to be wrong and state that it is fine to end sentences with prepositions.

Not only can you end a sentence with a preposition, but doing so often leads to clearer and more natural sounding sentences. Take a look at the following two sentences, and ask yourself which one seems easier to read:

  • I don’t know to which store he went.
  • I don’t know which store he went to.

To most of us, the second sentence sounds more natural and like something that a person would actually say. To illustrate our point, let’s look at some more examples of sentences that get … weird if you go out of your way to avoid putting a preposition at the end.

  • I know nothing about which he is talking.
  • To whom did you send the letter?
  • Before the current time we have once visited this city.

Yikes! Awkward! Things don’t end there, though. Many idioms, phrases, and compound verbs happen to end in prepositions. For sentences that use these common phrases, there often is no sensical sentence alternative to turn to. For example, the following sentences all contain commonly used phrases that just happen to end in prepositions:

  • I managed to get to the airport before my plane took off.
  • She needed to work two jobs just to get by.
  • We had to wait for our dinner to cool down.
  • Bob can’t ride roller coasters without throwing up.
  • The charity drive succeeded because everyone chipped in.

Still, there are some out there who consider ending a sentence with a preposition to be “wrong” or informal, so don’t be surprised if some so-called grammar purist takes you to task over prepositions. At the end of the day, though, you can save those great prepositions for the grand finale of your sentences if you really want to!

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Dig deeper into prepositions with this look at the objects of prepositions.

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