Can you end with a preposition?

Hi everyone!  The following discussion was inspired by the feedback I received on my last blog about picking proper pronouns. Several students asked if I could clarify whether or not it is acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

As a reminder, a preposition is a word that is used to create a relationship between other words (nouns, pronouns, verbs, and/or adjectives). Examples of common prepositions include about, above, across, behind, past, to, toward, with, without, according to, near to, in addition to, and on behalf of.

Simply put, since the purpose of writing is to clearly communicate your ideas, it is perfectly acceptable in standard English to end a sentence with a preposition if the alternative would create confusion on the part of your reader. In informal writing – an email, perhaps – and in conversation, ending with a preposition is more common than not. We wouldn’t say, “To whom should I give a high five?” We would say, rather, “Who should I give a high five to?”

However, a word of caution. Considering your audience’s thoughts on this issue is a wise idea; if your reader or readers believe ending a sentence with a preposition is incorrect, try revising. For example, “Which department is she in?” could be reworded as “She is in which department?” (Grammar).

To take this one step further, in formal writing it is best to avoid ending with a preposition. If something seems to be missing, reconsider and revise.

Let’s look at this example: “He walked down the street at a brisk pace, with his waistcoat buttoned against the cold and a jaunty hat perched atop.”

While this sounds fancy (and formal), this sentence is missing an object – what was the hat perched atop? Let’s try again, this time with an object: “He walked down the street at a brisk pace, with his waistcoat buttoned against the cold and a jaunty top hat perched atop his stately head” (Grammarly).

The moral of the story is, consider both your assignment and your audience before making your decisions as a writer. This way, you can ensure that you are clearly, and concisely relaying your thoughts to your reader!