You’ve probably heard that you can never, under any circumstances, use a preposition at the end of a sentence. However, there are plenty of opportunities to use a preposition in this manner, and if it makes your sentence sound more natural, it is absolutely acceptable.
Below we review what a preposition is, how it can be used, when it is acceptable to end a sentence with one, and how to make corrections when it may be frowned upon. Use these rules and examples to ensure your writing is clear and concise.
Can I End a Sentence With a Preposition?
Ending a sentence with a preposition is acceptable during informal writing and casual conversation. It is frowned upon when used in a formal context or when the preposition is missing an object.
What is a Preposition?
A preposition is a word or group of words that show direction, time, location, place, spatial relationships, or introduce an object. They are relationship words used before a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun and are crucial for effective communication.
There are over a hundred prepositions you can take advantage of, but the most common are those we use in everyday speech and writing. Frequently used prepositions include:
Ending a Sentence With a Preposition: When You Can and When You Can’t
There are various instances when you can and can’t use prepositions at the end of a sentence. We use them more often in speech than in writing due to the higher instances of casual conversation we involve ourselves with (see what I did there?). But, it is entirely acceptable to use them in writing as well to create an informal tone.
However, avoid them during formal instances, and make sure you present your words properly.
When to End a Sentence With a Preposition
There are many opportunities to use a preposition at the end of a sentence. The phrasing of these sentences is generally more conversational and, therefore, much more relaxed.
In Informal Conversation and Writing
Informal settings allow for prepositional endings in conversation and writing. You most likely already do it when speaking to friends and family or in a casual atmosphere. It might also sound awkward not to use a preposition at the end, making it acceptable in this scenario as well.
- Who are you talking about?
- I have no idea what I’m hungry for. Vs. I have no idea for what I’m hungry.
If the Preposition Is Part of an Informal Phrase
When the preposition is included in an informal phrase at the end of a sentence, its use is also acceptable.
- Six excited preschoolers were almost too much to put up with.
When an Idiom or Colloquialism Ends a Sentence
Some idioms and colloquialisms end in prepositions, and if you use them in sentences, they are appropriate to place at the end as well.
- A good mechanic is hard to come by.
When NOT to End a Sentence With a Preposition
When speaking or writing to people you may not know for work or school assignments, it is best to take a more formal approach and avoid end of sentence prepositional use. When proofreading and editing these types of examples, consider moving prepositions within the sentences.
In Formal Writing
The audience usually determines formal writing. If you are writing for work, an event, or to people you want to communicate clearly and concisely to, avoid the informal tone suggested with the placement of prepositions at the end of a sentence.
- The early Triassic is the era on which I’m focused. Vs. the early Triassic is the area I’m focused on.
- Romantic literature is a subject about which Ruby knows nothing. Vs. Romantic literature is a subject Ruby knows nothing about.
Prepositions and the Passive Voice
A passive voice in writing occurs when you might not know the subject of a sentence, or who is performing an action. It ends in a preposition and is easy to correct. However, there is nothing wrong with using it, even though traditional grammarians consider it a no-no. Just be sure that you have no other way to clarify the sentence without it sounding awkward.
- The game has been called off. Vs. The game was rescheduled.
- The issue was dealt with. Vs. The boss dealt with the issue.
Sometimes, sentences end with a preposition because too many are in the sentence. These are easy to edit for clarity and to help avoid wordiness.
- The whites and colored laundry need to be separated out. Vs. The whites and colored laundry need to be separated.
- Sanna is confused about where she is going to. Vs. Sanna is confused about where she is going.
Examples of Using Prepositions at the End of Sentences
As with many grammar and usage rules, the question of whether or not to end sentences with prepositions is ultimately a matter of taste.
These arbitrary rules have never hampered great writers and influencers, and sentence-ending prepositions can be found in some of the most beautiful writing in the English language.
Ending a Sentence With “Is”
- Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is. [Vince Lombardi]
Ending a Sentence with “On”
- When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on. [Franklin D. Roosevelt]
- In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on. [Robert Frost]
Ending a Sentence With “Up”
- Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. [Thomas A. Edison]
Ending a Sentence With “With”
- Finn the Red-Handed had stolen a skillet and a quantity of half-cured leaf tobacco, and had also brought a few corn-cobs to make pipes with. [Mark Twain]
Ending a Sentences With “To”
- There was a little money left, but to Mrs. Bart, it seemed worse than nothing the mere mockery of what she was entitled to. [Edith Wharton]
- It’s funny. All one has to do is say something nobody understands and they’ll do practically anything you want them to. [J D Salinger]
Ending a Sentence With “Of”
- Mr. Barsad saw losing cards in it that Sydney Carton knew nothing of. [Charles Dickens]
Ending a Sentence With “For”
- Then she remembered what she had been waiting for. [James Joyce]
- There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for. [J.RR. Tolkein]
Ending a Sentence With “Out”
- Time, which sees all things, has found you out. [Oedipus]
- Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out. [John Wooden]
Ending a Sentence with “Over”
- For you, a thousand times over. [Khaled Hosseini]
Let’s Review and a Worksheet to Download
Although we use many prepositions in everyday language, some of the most common ones make their way to the end of a sentence. This use is often casual and works to help a sentence flow. However, you want to avoid their use in formal settings if you can. Also, look for unnecessary use even in an informal situation, and correct the sentence for clarity.