TIPS AND TRICKS
ENDING SENTENCES WITH PREPOSITIONS
Probably one of the most famous quotes pertaining to this particular facet of grammar is that of Winston Churchill:
“This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”
He has a point. The notion that no English sentence should end with a preposition is unrealistic and somewhat pedantic. It stems from a silly assumption that English should mirror Latin, even though English was influenced by other languages and language structures. Still, stricter professors, employers and revisors may insist upon not ending sentences with prepositions. In those cases, rewrite sentences to avoid this. In other cases (including formal writing), here are a few quick guidelines on the subject.
Often times (more orally than in written form) people will end sentences with prepositions that are completely arbitrary and unnecessary. This should always be avoided in both formal and informal writing.
- We were confused about where he was at.
- Revised: We were confused about where he was.
You should also not end a sentence with a preposition when it could be left out without the sentence losing any meaning. For example:
- They will go later on.
- Revised: They will go later.
Phrasal verbs are verbs that made up of multiple words, one of which is always a preposition. Nothing is wrong with sentences that end with prepositions that are part of a phrasal verb.
- He tried to cheer her up.
- They need to calm down.
- My name was left out.
When faced with this type of sentence in a situation that does not allow you to rightly end a sentence with a preposition, rewrite the sentence to avoid using the phrasal verb.
- Revised: He tried to improve her mood.
- Revised: They need to relax.
- Revised: My name was not included.
OTHER SENTENCES ENDING WITH A PREPOSITION
Again, nothing is wrong with these sentences, but that is not to say that you won't be forced to rearrange them to avoid a preposition at the end of a sentence. When possible, try to rearrange the sentence in a way that avoids awkward wording.
Rewrite the following sentences to avoid endings with prepositions.
1. What did he step on?Sample answer
2. I think that he wants to come with.Sample answer
3. You’ll have to go around.Sample answer
4. This is the book I told you about.Sample answer
5. Jill was sitting on the couch that Jeff was sweeping under.Sample answer
6. Where are you off to?Sample answer
7. It was the worst natural disaster that she had ever heard of.Sample answer
8. Our response will depend on what you ask for.Sample answer
9. He’s hard to talk to.Sample answer
10. What does the recipe consist of?Sample answer
Einsohn, Amy. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006.
Flick, Jane and Celia Millward. Handbook for Writers. 3rd Canadian ed. Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company, Ltd., 1999.
Messenger, William E. et al. The Canadian Writer’s Handbook. 5th ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada, 2008.
The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th ed. rev. and expanded. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
Created by: Diana Franz