Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What Do You End a Sentence With?

You can find a hundred opinions on the Internet (and in books and magazine articles) about ending a sentence with a preposition. In the case of casual writing, no one cares if you end your sentence with “with” or “for”. For more formal circumstances, however, doing so should be avoided whenever possible.

Note that ending a sentence with a preposition doesn’t necessarily make you wrong. People simply perceive doing so as being grammatical error. Leaving a sentence with such an ending disrupts the flow of your writing to someone who has been taught that you should never do so. Even though your piece will be correct, your reader will think otherwise. My grammar checker marked the title of this post for ending with a preposition, in fact.

Should you find yourself with a preposition at the end of your sentence, try re-writing it. Move the preposition so a spot before its object first and re-read the sentence aloud. If it sounds stilted or snooty to you, try writing the sentence in a way that doesn’t require a preposition at all.

You can often reword questions to eliminate the preposition problem. When you ask where something is at, you can simply drop the “at”. “Where” asks for a location and the “at” becomes redundant in this circumstance. Instead of asking “what for” you simply ask “why”. Thus, instead of asking, “What do you need to go to the store for?” you can ask, “Why do you need to go to the store?” Then again, you could simply ask, “What do you need at the store?”

I’ll pick this topic up tomorrow with more examples, including verbs that include prepositions. That will by my first post for NaBloPoMo, and if I can swing it, I’ll be posting every day for November. That’s assuming that my ISP can keep their servers up for the whole month. Check back often!




Nicely put. I was an editor at one of law journals during school and this was a huge pet peeve. That, and the passive voice.