Posted by: Jack Henry | September 19, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Dangling Prepositions

Good morning! Today I’m going to share information about dangling prepositions. Sounds exciting, right? You have Mary W. to thank. She asked about this topic, and I’m certainly not going to leave her dangling.

So, what is a dangling preposition? Well, a preposition is a word that shows a relationship (of time, space, distance, causation, etc.) between a noun and another element of the sentence. Some common prepositions are at, on, to, about, over, around, etc. And a dangling preposition is considered to be dangling because it occurs at the end of a sentence, as in the following examples:

  • That’s the horse he put all of his money on.
  • I created a playlist that we can listen to.
  • Oh, that’s nothing to get upset about.

Here’s the fun part. You may have learned back in school that you should not end sentences with prepositions. Well, as we’ve discussed before at the Editor’s Corner, that “rule” is a myth. It is perfectly acceptable to dangle your prepositions; in fact, it is preferred when it helps to create a more succinct sentence. Let’s look at our previous examples rewritten to move the preposition. Notice how stilted they seem:

  • That’s the horse on which he put all of his money.
  • I created a playlist to which we can listen.
  • Oh, that’s nothing about which to get upset.

However, I think what Mary W. was talking about is a slightly different phenomenon. There are some very commonly uttered sentences, which end in prepositions, that are grammatically incorrect. You probably want to avoid these (especially in writing):

  • Where are you at? (Sometimes you’ll even here “Where you at?”)
  • Where is it at?

So, why are those two sentences wrong but the previous examples aren’t? It’s because in both cases above the preposition at is redundant. The sentence “Where are you?” is complete—so is the sentence “Where is it?”

Here’s your grammatical takeaway: it’s OK to end a sentence with a dangling preposition as long as the preposition that you’re dangling is not redundant.

And here’s your dangling puppies takeaway:

Now we’re ready to start the day.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

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