Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

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Ending a sentence with a preposition has long been frowned upon by traditional readers and is still considered grammatically incorrect. However, it’s not technically an error. It’s perfectly OK to end a sentence with a preposition such as with, for, of, and to in the English language. ‘Where did you get this shirt from?’ and ‘This is the novel I told you about!’ sound much more natural than ‘From where did you get this shirt?’ or ‘This is the novel about which I told you!’

So, if the alternatives tend to create confusion or sound unnatural, it’s totally permissible to end your sentence with a preposition especially in casual or informal writing. Most grammar and usage guides had come to the conclusion that there was really nothing wrong with ending a sentence with a preposition (also known as preposition stranding, or sentence-terminal prepositions). For example:

Who were you speaking to?  (informal and more casual)

To whom were you speaking? (formal, but not in use in conversation)

Whom were you speaking to? (breaks out the rule of ending a sentence with a preposition, a little formal)

 

Some example sentences

Who (whom) were you sitting with?

I don’t understand what she’s talking about!

Where does she come from?

Who is she going out with?

Which movie was she cast in? (casual)

In which movie was she cast? (formal)

Where did this box come from?

 

Many English idioms and colloquial expressions end in prepositions. When you use the expressions at the end of a sentence, the sentence ultimately ends in a preposition. For example:

She gave up the job when her first child came along.

Thanks for stopping by!

The shop is all set up.

Will you calm down?

 

Is it necessary to move the preposition?

Though in informal setting, it doesn’t require you to move the preposition away from the end of the sentence, it could be your choice in formal writing. Phrases that sound natural in informal English may feel odd or awkward in formal essay, article or conversation. Here are some tips for changing sentences in formal writing.

Today is the big day; who his only daughter is getting married off to? (casual)

Today is the big day; to whom his only daughter is getting married off? (formal)

She’s the girl I’m going to work with. (informal)

She’s the girl with whom I’m going to work. (formal)

Mughal era is the period I’m focusing on. (informal)

Mughal era is the period on which I’m focusing. (formal)

Palmistry is a subject Tom knows nothing about. (informal)

Palmistry is a subject about which Tom knows nothing. (formal)

 

Some more example sentences

What should I put the honey in?

They need to decide which side they’re on.

Who is this coffee for?

There is nothing in her life to be grateful for.

There’s nothing to be afraid of.

She wished she had someone to confide in.

What did you step on?

The meeting was called off.

The matter has been dealt with.

The maid knows where your shoes are at. (‘at’ is unnecessary; the sentence is okay with ‘The maid knows where your shoes are.)

Mother doesn’t know where she’s going to. (‘to’ is unnecessary)

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