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Ending a Sentence With a Preposition

The rule about ending a sentence with a preposition exists for so long that it has become a myth. Undoubtedly, many people still roll their eyes when they see a preposition at the end of a sentence. But in some cases, even these grammar nerds don’t know how to rephrase such sentences and make them sound natural. Besides, this rule works better if a writer wants their text to sound more formal.

Casual writing doesn’t require placing prepositions only somewhere in the middle or at the beginning of a sentence. Thus, it’s not incorrect to finish a thought with “to” or “about.” Moreover, in some cases, a sentence doesn’t make any sense without a preposition at the end.

What Is a Preposition?

For a better understanding of rules and myths surrounding prepositions, it’s necessary to learn what is the function of these words. Prepositions are little helpers creating the connection between nouns, pronouns, and other words in a sentence. Typically, they are used to define the location, time, and the way things are done answering questions, “Where?,” “When?,” and “How?”

Here are a few examples:

  • ✔️ Ann met her classmate at a coffee shop.
  • ✔️ We will travel to Spain in September.
  • ✔️ He opened the door with his old key.

What is the background of a rule concerning prepositions at the end of a sentence? Well, they say that it’s been around for centuries, but no one knows who exactly created it. Some people believe that John Dryden said that it’s incorrect to place prepositions at the end of a phrase, while others think that Joshua Pool was the rule creator. However, they both wanted the English language to be closer to Latin. Prepositions aren’t placed at the end of a sentence in Latin. But times have changed as well as grammar rules, and therefore it’s Ok to finish a phrase with a preposition if it sounds more natural.

When Is It Ok to Place a Preposition at the End of a Sentence?

A preposition is an important detail helping a reader understand a sentence. In some cases, it’s a mistake to remove this word from the end of a phrase. Otherwise, a sentence won’t make any sense.

For example:

Right✔️ Wrong❌
I didn’t have an idea what he was talking about. I didn’t have an idea what he was talking.

I didn’t have an idea what about he was talking.
What is John sitting on? What is John sitting?

On what is John sitting?
What information are you interested in? What information are you interested?

In what information are you interested?

Writing becomes more informal if the word order is changed. A preposition at the end of a sentence makes casual texting and even social media posts look more conversational. Here are few examples:

  • ✔️ Suddenly I understood they were discussing a movie I told them about.
  • ✔️ There’s nothing else I can think of.
  • ✔️ A professor asked a question in a discipline Mary was good at.

Prepositions are often an element of a phrasal verb. Naturally, it’s a mistake to separate these words. Since a preposition goes after a verb, it’s Ok if it ends a sentence:

  • ✔️ He told her to calm down.
  • ✔️ John didn’t want to give up.
  • ✔️ Students knew their old professor will never come back.

When Is It Better to Avoid Ending a Sentence With a Preposition?

In fact, it’s not a mistake to use a preposition at the end of a sentence when writing an email or commercial offer. But a letter will sound less formal, which can be inappropriate if a recipient is someone a sender doesn’t know in person or their business partner. A receiver might think it’s a sign of disrespect.

If an object is missing, it doesn’t make any sense to place a preposition at the end of a phrase. A reader will be confused, and they won’t understand what stands behind a sentence. The following example demonstrates the point:

❌ Billy took the money from his wallet and hid it on.

This sentence isn’t complete as it doesn’t contain an object. A reader won’t understand where Billy hid the money. Here’s the correct version:

✔️ Billy took the money from his wallet and hid it on a shelf.

Bottom Line

Much time has passed since the grammar myth concerning prepositions at the end of a sentence was born. However, grammar rules have changed, and it’s no longer a mistake to finish a phrase with “on,” “about,” or “in.” However, it’s necessary to remember certain rules connected with formal writing, phrasal verbs, and objects. In some cases, a small preposition at the end is the main detail explaining the sense of the entire sentence.

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