Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Prepositions (and the ends of sentences)

with 3 comments

Line of Horse Chestnut trees
Image by markhillary via Flickr

Hmm. This is an old chestnut surrounded by myth and legend. People who know nothing about grammar regularly assert that placing a preposition at the end of a sentence is a hanging offence. Most people who say this don’t even know what a preposition is.

Well, first of all, here’s a list of common prepositions (you’ll see that many of them refer to where someone or something is, or to a particular time):

  • To
  • Over
  • Under
  • Along
  • Above
  • Across
  • At
  • Below
  • Among
  • Off
  • On
  • Towards
  • With
  • During
  • Before
  • After
  • For
  • Between
  • Beside

Anyway, the main point to make here is that it is perfectly OK to end a sentence with a preposition if it sounds best that way. For example:

‘London is the city I’m going to.’

Rather than:

‘London is the city to which I’m going.’

Or:

‘He’s the person I’m going with.’

Rather than:

‘He’s the person with whom I’m going.’

Trust your own judgement and place your prepositions where you think they sound best.

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Written by Wordwatch

04/11/2009 at 12:26 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Someone archly tried to correct this Facebook sentence-title on the grounds it was wrong to end it with a preposition: “Becoming a fan of pages with bad grammar makes me die a little inside.” While “inside” can be a preposition — as well as a few other parts of speech — it’s used there as an adverb that modifies “die.” Even if “inside” were a preposition there, how could you re-word the sentence to make it read any better than it already does — “die inside a little”? No longer idiomatic or comfortable.

    Michael Farrell

    31/03/2010 at 3:26 pm

    • Hi, Michael. I agree — the original is fine as it is. I suppose you could try turning it around to start the sentence with, ‘I die a little inside …’, but even then, I think the original would still be better.

      Deborah

      31/03/2010 at 5:39 pm

  2. Guy Keleny in The Independent‘s Errors & Omissions column:

    Here’s an awkward sentence, from an article last Saturday about celebrities holidaying in Marbella:

    “There’s no rest for the wicked, and Sundays are no exception, when the beachside Ocean Club hosts the only party to be seen at.”

    A correspondent writes in to suggest that this is an example of the horrors that ensue when you break the rule that a sentence should never end with a preposition. Well, that is not a rule I have ever had much time for. Reputable writers break it all the time. The other day, I came across another example. This is from Shakespeare’s Henry V. The Earl of Exeter, Henry’s ambassador, addresses the Dauphin: “Scorn and defiance; slight regard, contempt,/And anything that may not misbecome/The mighty sender, doth he prize you at.”

    The sentence from Marbella needs sorting out, but moving the final preposition won’t necessarily help: “… the only party at which to be seen” is not much of an improvement.

    No, the problem with this sentence is ” …no exception, when …” , which reads as if Sundays sometimes are an exception. Split the sentence: “There’s no rest for the wicked, even on Sundays; that is the day when the beachside Ocean Club holds [not ‘hosts’, please] the only party to be seen at.”

    Deborah

    04/07/2011 at 11:41 am


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