Posted by: Jack Henry | June 23, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

One of our readers recently asked whether it is acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. Kara and Donna discussed this topic previously, but this myth is so pervasive that it’s worth revisiting.

Ending a sentence with a preposition is acceptable and, in some cases, preferable. "What are you waiting for?" is a sensible sentence. "For what are you waiting?" sounds awkward or overly formal to many English speakers. Worse, clumsy attempts to relocate prepositions can mangle sentences beyond recognition. Consider the following examples:

Write This Not This
What are you scared of? Of what are you scared?
Where are you from? From where are you?
She had nobody to talk to. She had nobody to whom to talk.
There’s the horse I was talking about. There’s the horse about which I was talking.
Nobody likes being laughed at. Being laughed at nobody likes.
This alarm has been tampered with. Tampered with this alarm has been.

Some grammar rules are violated so often that the incorrect usage becomes acceptable. This is not one of those cases. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a widely accepted rule against ending sentences with prepositions.

Fussbudgets like John Dryden (1672), Robert Lowth (1762), and Henry Alford (1864) proposed such rules because they wanted English to follow rules of Latin grammar. But for most speakers, intelligibly is a higher goal than mimicking the sentence structure of a dead language.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
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