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Prepositions at the End of a Sentence

How many of you were taught that a sentence should never end with a preposition? Well, Professor Jack Lynch of
Rutgers University will set the record straight once and for all! This week's grammar tip comes courtesy of his website, Guide to Grammar and Style.

     Prepositions at the End.

Along with split infinitives, a favorite bugbear of the traditionalists. Whatever the merit of the rule―and both historically and logically, there's not much―there's a substantial body of opinion against end-of-sentence prepositions; if you want to keep the crusty old-timers happy, try to avoid ending written sentences (and clauses) with prepositions, such as to, with, from, at, and in. Instead of writing "The topics we want to write on," where the preposition on ends the clause, consider "The topics on which we want to write." Prepositions should usually go before (pre-position) the words they modify.

On the other hand―and it's a big other hand―old-timers shouldn't always dictate your writing, and you don't deserve your writing license if you elevate this rough guideline into a superstition. Don't let it make your writing clumsy or obscure; if a sentence is more graceful with a final preposition, let it stand. For instance, "He gave the public what it longed for" is clear and idiomatic, even though it ends with a preposition; "He gave the public that for which it longed" avoids the problem but doesn't look like English. A sentence becomes unnecessarily obscure when it's filled with from whoms and with whiches. According to a widely circulated (and often mutated) story, Winston Churchill, reprimanded for ending a sentence with a preposition, put it best: "This is the sort of thing up with which I will not put." ¹

You can't believe your eyes, can you? Yes, Professor Lynch is saying that it's acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition! Try doing your own Google search―you'll find many grammarians with the same opinion. Of course, you can't always believe what you read on the Internet, so I checked two well-known references for you. Both The Chicago Manual of Style and The Gregg Reference Manual agree with Professor Lynch.

If you still don't believe it, try rewording the following sentence so that it doesn't end with a preposition: "Where are you from?"

Oh―and it should sound like modern English, too!

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1. Jack Lynch, "Prepositions at the End," Guide to Grammar and Style,
    (accessed January 24, 2007). Published with permission.