Is ending a sentence with a preposition a recipe for bad grammar? If you must prepare letters, reports, proposals, or other written materials on a daily basis, it’s a good idea to have a firm grasp of the essential rules of English grammar. However, the topic of ending a sentence with a preposition is one that continues to inspire debate among those who are committed to promoting good writing.
Before discussing whether or not it’s acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition, it’s helpful to clarify what this term actually means. Essentially, a preposition is a word that is used to create a relationship between other words. In many cases, prepositions deal with concepts relating to space and time.
Examples of common prepositions within the English language include:
Multi-word phrases may also be classified as prepositions, as in the following examples:
At one time, schoolchildren were taught that a sentence should never end with a preposition. However, this is a philosophy actually associated with Latin grammar. While many aspects of Latin have made their way into the English language, this particular grammar rule is not suited for modern English usage.
There are times when trying to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition creates unnecessary and awkward phrasing. For example, Winston Churchill once reportedly exclaimed, "That is the sort of thing up with which I will not put!" to mock someone who criticized him for ending a sentence with a preposition. Since the purpose of writing is to clearly communicate your thoughts and ideas, it’s perfectly acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition if the alternative would create confusion.
However, it may still be worth revising your sentences to avoid ending them a preposition whenever possible if you wish to reduce the risk of controversy. Since there are still a number of people who believe ending a sentence with a preposition is incorrect, considering your audience’s thoughts on the issue is a wise idea—particularly when you’re trying to gain a new client or land an important job interview. For example, “Which department is she in?” could simply be rewritten to read as “She is in which department?” without influencing clarity or comprehension.
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