Is it OK to end a sentence with a preposition? Many teachers will say no, but the truth is, under the right circumstances, ending a sentence with a preposition is not only acceptable—it’s the best option. However, there are times when it should be avoided; it’s just a matter of learning the rules.
And what are those rules? Below, we explain precisely when you can end a sentence with a preposition and when you cannot. We also give suggestions on how to avoid it and share a few examples so you know what to look for.
What is a preposition in a sentence?
Prepositions are words that communicate relationships between things, such as location or time. For example, the preposition inside can tell you someone is inside a house, while the preposition at can tell you that class begins at 10 a.m.
Prepositions cannot stand alone and must be used with a prepositional phrase. Like transitive verbs, prepositions also require an object, either a standalone noun or a noun phrase. The object of a preposition comes after the preposition and often includes articles like a or the.
We leave in [preposition] the morning [noun].
She disapproved of [preposition] the mess I had made [noun phrase].
Is it OK to end a sentence with a preposition?
The answer to this question is “sometimes.” We’ll explain the details below, but if you’re looking for a short answer, ending a sentence with a preposition is OK for informal communication like chatting with friends, but it’s frowned upon in formal communications like school papers or business correspondence.
When is it wrong to end a sentence with a preposition?
It’s not a mistake to end a sentence with a preposition, but it may seem out of place in formal communication. Just like you avoid using slang or emoji in certain situations, you also avoid ending a sentence with a preposition in some contexts.
These situations include academic writing like research papers or argumentative essays, as well as business writing like cover letters, work emails, or reports.
Using a preposition without an object is always incorrect, whether it’s at the end of a sentence or not (unless it’s part of a phrasal verb). These incomplete prepositional phrases are known as dangling prepositions, or hanging prepositions.
Be mindful that any prepositions you’re using have objects. Pay particular attention to certain phrases that use unnecessary dangling prepositions.
When is it better to end a sentence with a preposition?
If I asked my friends questions like, “With whom are you seeing a movie?” or “About what are you talking?” I would get teased mercilessly. This way of communicating is, in a word, formal—which means it’s out of place in casual and friendly conversations.
The rule about not ending sentences with prepositions really applies to formal communication; in informal settings go ahead and speak freely.
Phrasal verbs like calm down or put up with may contain prepositions, but grammatically they act as verbs. Because ending a sentence with a verb is generally OK, it’s acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition that’s part of a phrasal verb.
After a long week, I just want to get away. It’ll be nice to go somewhere I can dress up.
However, be careful because some phrasal verbs also require an object, and it’s still incorrect to use them without one.
To enhance your prose
You shouldn’t argue grammar issues with William Strunk Jr.—he literally wrote the book on it! In his classic , Strunk unequivocally supports ending a sentence with a preposition if it improves the writing.
Years ago, students were warned not to end a sentence with a preposition; time, of course, has softened that rigid decree. Not only is the preposition acceptable at the end, sometimes it is more effective in that spot than anywhere else.
English grammar isn’t something to mess with.
English grammar isn’t something with which to mess.
Writing isn’t always black and white—there are plenty of gray areas where the standard rules don’t apply. If you think a sentence truly sounds better with a preposition at the end, by all means write it that way.
How not to end a sentence with a preposition
As we said above, prepositional phrases require an object. This is why ending a sentence with a preposition is frowned upon—in this situation, an object doesn’t come after the preposition. To fix the problem either:
- Add the object of the preposition to the end of the sentence.
- Rewrite the sentence so that the preposition comes before its object.
The first case is simple enough. The sentence remains mostly the same; all you do is add the missing object of the preposition, either a noun or noun phrase.
[ORIGINAL] Dinner starts at 6 o’clock, so don’t come before. [REWRITE] Dinner starts at 6 o’clock, so don’t come before that time.
However, this solution doesn’t always work. For example, in questions that end in a preposition, the object is often the interrogative pronoun that starts the sentence, such as who, whom, what, or which.
Which car do you want to go in? Whom are you speaking for?
In these cases, you can simply move the preposition before its object.
In which car do you want to go? For whom are you speaking?
Unfortunately, this isn’t always so easy. Some sentences still sound awkward even when you move the preposition. When all else fails, try rewriting the sentence from scratch and rearrange the sentence structure. Break it into two sentences if necessary.
[ORIGINAL] That’s the quiet guy I was telling you about! [REWRITE] Remember when I told you about the quiet guy? That’s him!
Ending a sentence with a preposition examples
[ORIGINAL] She walked in the rain with the umbrella above. [REWRITE] She walked in the rain with the umbrella above her.
[ORIGINAL] Which blog was your article published in? [REWRITE] In which blog was your article published?
[ORIGINAL] There’s nothing to be afraid of. [REWRITE] You don’t need to be afraid of anything.
Ending a sentence with a preposition FAQs
What is a preposition?
Prepositions communicate the relationship between different words, such as location or time. For example, you can use the preposition at to tell someone to meet you at the park.
What does it mean to end a sentence in a preposition?
Prepositions take an object to form a complete prepositional phrase, so if they come at the end of a sentence, they’re disconnected from their object.
What are the rules for ending a sentence in a preposition?
Ending a sentence with a preposition is acceptable in casual communication, but it’s looked down upon in formal writing like academic papers or business correspondence. You don’t need to think about it too much unless you’re in a formal setting, in which case you simply rephrase the sentence to put the preposition before its object.