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Ending a Sentence With a Preposition

Is it ever OK to end a sentence with a preposition?

By
Mignon Fogarty
Episode #269

When Can't You End a Sentence with a Preposition?

But, you can't always end sentences with prepositions. When you could leave off the preposition and it wouldn't change the meaning, you should leave it off. Here is a cell phone commercial that gets on my nerves.   

\[Where you at?]\

For the purposes of today’s discussion, let’s ignore the fact that they left out the verb “are” because I’ve definitely heard people ask, “Where are you at?”

The problem is that “Where are you at?” doesn't need the preposition at the end. If you say “Where are you?” it means the same thing. So the "at" is unnecessary. You should leave it off.

Unnecessary Prepositions

The problem with unnecessary prepositions doesn't happen just at the end of sentences. People often throw extraneous prepositions into the middle of sentences, and they shouldn't (2). Instead of saying “Squiggly jumped off of the dock,” it's better to say “Squiggly jumped off the dock.” You see? You don't need to say “off of the dock”; “off the dock” says the same thing without the preposition.

Another example is “outside of” when “outside” by itself would do just fine. You should say, “He's outside the door,” not, “He's outside of the door.”

Sentences Can End with Prepositions from Phrasal Verbs

So far, my examples of prepositions at the end of sentences have all been questions. Lest you think they’re a special case, we’ll look at some sentences that aren’t questions.

English has a type of verb called a phrasal verb. These are verbs made up of multiple words, and one is always a preposition. “Cheer up,” “run over,” “log on,” and “leave off” are all examples of phrasal verbs, and often sentences that use phrasal verbs end with a preposition:

  • I wish he would cheer up.
  • You should leave it off.

Those are perfectly acceptable sentences.

Other Sentences Can End with Prepositions Too

It’s also OK to end a sentence with a preposition sometimes even when you aren’t using a phrasal verb. For example, although you could rewrite the following sentences to avoid ending them with a preposition, you don’t need to.

  • She displayed the good humor she’s known for. (Could be rewritten as “She displayed the good humor for which she’s known.”)
  • I want to know where he came from. (Could be rewritten as “I want to know from where he came.”)

 

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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