Can we end a sentences in English with prepositions? The short answer is yes, we can.
So what is all the fuss about?
It seems to come down to an obscure grammar book that was published in 1646, by Joshua Poole. Poole created the rule in an attempt to make English more like Latin, but not many people took notice. Later, a famous poet, John Dryden, criticized another poet, Ben Jonson,for ending his sentences with prepositions. This popularized the idea that terminal prepositions are incorrect. And grammar scholars have been arguing about it ever since.
Meanwhile, most English speakers have carried on, happily placing prepositions at the end of sentences. And if you were to ask the average people about this grammar rule, they wouldn’t know what you are talking about. However, be prepared to encounter people who still consider it a terrible grammar crime, and who get very upset to see prepositions ‘stranded’ all alone at the end of sentences.
My advice? Nod and smile politely, and carry on. Let those who hang on to this obscure ‘rule’ do as they please. You can feel confident that we use terminal prepositions in modern English all the time, and it’s perfectly fine.
If fact, there is a terminal preposition in two of the sentences above. Can you find it?
Having said all this, it’s always best to have the ability to express yourself in English with different levels of formality. And when you are making an argument that is important to you, you don’t want your audience to be distracted by grammar. Therefore, if you are going to be doing academic writing, or speaking in formal settings, you’ll want to be able to avoid ‘dangling’ your prepositions when you choose to.
How to reword your sentences to avoid terminal prepositions:
1.) Where you would place a phrasal verb at the end of your sentence in casual speech, you can usually replace it with a synonym to make the sentence more formal.
Here are some examples:
There is nothing to
be afraid of fear.
Be careful! That bomb might
blow up explode!
What do you
look forward to anticipate?
Learn more about phrasal verbs and synonyms for them.
2.) Often, you can change the word order, and not only avoid a terminal preposition, but also sound more natural. (Remember the mantra: ‘subject + verb + compliment’)
That’s an idea I hadn’t thought of. I hadn’t thought of that idea. This isn’t the type of music we usually listen to. We don’t usually listen to this type of music. For average people, stealing isn’t a behaviour we agree with. Average people don’t agree with stealing.
3.) You can change the passive voice to the active.
The child was yelled at. Someone yelled at the child. The bike was run over. Someone ran over the bike.
Learn more about active and passive voice.
4.) You can make indirect questions direct.
I don’t know what you are upset about. Why you are upset? We wonder if James is someone we can count on. Can we count on James?
Learn more about direct and indirect questions.
5.) Finally, you can think of a different way to express your idea.
Who is the book by? Who wrote the book? I need a bag to carry the groceries in. I need something in which to carry the groceries. This behaviour is something I will not put up with! I won’t tolerate this behaviour!
Discuss ways to reword the following sentences:
1.) What are you looking for?
2.) Do you know which room we are staying in?
3.) I wonder if you you need someone to talk to?
4.) This is a plan I’d never conceive of.
Ending sentences with prepositions – Select the correct preposition. Discuss reordering the sentence.
Ending questions with prepositions – Put the questions about travel in order, and take turn asking and answering them.