Ending a sentence with a preposition is one of those grammar taboos that many have heard. Some follow it as a rule, while others aren’t even sure what it means and some say it’s entirely bogus. So, is it okay to end a sentence with a preposition?
The short answer is yes, pretty much. But let’s look at how we got in this situation.
A preposition is a word or group of words that links a noun element with another part of a sentence. Prepositions can express position (about, above, below etc.), direction (in, to, toward etc.), time (before, after, during etc.), and source (from, of, out of).
A Bit of History
Like the split infinitives “rule,” the ordinance to avoid prepositions at the end of sentences comes from trying to make English conform to Latin grammar. Preposition comes from the Latin prae (before) and ponere (to place). In Latin writing, a preposition always goes before the noun or pronoun it’s linked to.
John Dryden is probably the most cited proponent of avoiding terminal prepositions. In fact, his 1672 “Defense of the Epilogue” is sometimes considered the first example of someone criticizing this sentence structure. In it, Dryden writes that using a preposition at the end of a sentence is “a common fault” of Ben Jonson’s writing.
Since then, the prohibition against prepositions at the end of sentences has been a semi-regular teaching. But, the thing is, people have always written prepositions at the end of sentences, from before Dryden to present day. Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll—the list could go on and on.
Today, most usage guides will agree that the preposition rule is a grammar myth.
Merriam-Webster says the “rule” isn’t necessary.
The Chicago Manual of Style says that “the traditional caveat of yesteryear against ending sentences or clauses with prepositions is an unnecessary and pedantic restriction. And it is wrong.”
Lexico says there it is quite natural to end with a preposition with passive structures, relative clauses, or in some questions.
Grammar Girl Mignon Fogerty agrees, adding that ending sentences with phrasal verbs (a verb that includes multiple words, like cool off or cheer up) often requires a sentence-terminal preposition.
Fogerty says there are many cases when ending a sentence with a preposition sounds more natural and less pedantic than rearranging it. But she adds a caveat: a sentence shouldn’t end in a preposition if the preposition is unnecessary. If it can be removed without changing the meaning of a sentence, then it should be removed.
So, Should You Avoid Ending Sentences with Prepositions?
Since there’s nothing actually grammatically wrong with prepositions at the end of sentences, you shouldn’t worry about rearranging your sentences to avoid them. Just avoid them when they’re not necessary and you should be fine in most cases.