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Should you end a sentence with a preposition?

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the Unite...

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955. Deutsch: Winston Churchill, 1940 bis 1945 sowie 1951 bis 1955 Premier des Vereinigten Königreichs und Literaturnobelpreisträger des Jahres 1953. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Giving advice on grammar is hard – especially when there is so much disagreement around some of the ‘rules’. Like the rule that says you should never end a sentence with a preposition.

As Winston Churchill (apparently) said, “This is the type of errant pedantry up with which I will not put.”

So what does this rule actually mean? According to Robert Lowth, who wrote one of the first English grammar textbooks in 1762, the preposition should always be placed before the noun, because the word preposition means “position before”. A preposition is a positioning word – at, by, for, into, off, on, out, over, to, under, up, with.
If you adhere to this rule, this sentence: What did you  step on?
Should be changed to: On what did you step?

This rule (or myth, as some call it) is contentious because in conversation, we often end sentences in prepositions. Now, most grammarians agree that if the sentence sounds right when it’s ending in a preposition, it’s perfectly ok to do that. But if you think you can remove the preposition without changing the meaning of your sentence, you should do so.

Taken from the Sydney Writers Centre –  Newsletter dated 30/08/12


6 comments on “Should you end a sentence with a preposition?

  1. lutheranladies
    August 30, 2012

    “Up” is my nemesis. I’m: getting up, throwing up, hitting someone up, and rarely shutting up. Darn prepositions.


  2. David Stewart
    August 30, 2012

    I’ve always mostly ignored this rule, although also felt a little guilty about it. It doesn’t help that in my dialect growing up (Newfoundland), we end on a preposition a lot more, like “Where are you going to?” or “What are you at?” (What are you doing?)


  3. dorannrule
    August 31, 2012

    You are muddling my daily thoughts with English grammar! Nevertheless, I am nominating you for the Addictive Blog Award because I am addicted to your blog! See rules and details at http://countryliving4beginners.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/the-case-for-blogging-addiction/ 🙂 Dor


  4. Russel Ray Photos
    September 4, 2012

    I suspect the up and coming Twitter generation doesn’t even know what a preposition is.


  5. JanBeek
    September 5, 2012

    I’m so glad to have a little permission to relax with this one! Sometimes it sounds awfully stilted when I can’t write as I speak and I have to end my sentences without the normal word in!


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