Prepositions: Put ’Em Where You Like
Let’s make this abundantly clear: it is perfectly acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. Or rather: a preposition is something you can end a sentence with.
The supposed rule to not end a sentence with a preposition is one familiar even to people who don’t spend their Saturdays reading grammar books (cut me some slack – grammar can be more exciting than some fiction I’ve read).
But despite how often we’ve all heard this supposed rule, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and what’s more, it’s not even supported by many grammarians.
But first, what’s a preposition?
They’re those little words that attach to nouns or phrases to show some sort of relationship and often deal with spatial or chronological ideas.
Some examples of prepositions are:
Prepositions aren’t particularly meaningful by themselves, but they’re invaluable in clarifying meaning. Try taking the words with, to, on, and for out of your speech and see what happens.
So they’re pretty important. And a long time ago, prescriptive grammarians told us all not to end a sentence with these little guys. But why?
Some people thought English was Latin
The basic story is that Latin was the learned language centuries ago when we first started writing down grammar rules and standardizing our spelling. All the scholars spoke and wrote in Latin; it worked as a handy lingua franca and they just thought it was the best thing ever (sliced bread hadn’t yet been invented), even though Latin is cumbersome had had zero native speakers for a millennium.
So, when these scholars began setting down rules for English, they figured, “Hey, Latin totally rocks more than English, so let’s impose Latin grammar on everything!”
Without getting into the details, it makes a whole lot of sense to never end a sentence with a preposition in Latin. The nouns change cases, and keeping the prepositions nearby is key in helping figure out what the heck is going on.
But in English, that’s not a problem we have to deal with.
English isn’t Latin. English is a living Germanic language; Latin’s a dead Romance language. Totally different families, histories and grammar. It’s like saying soccer is better than baseball, so baseball players shouldn’t be allowed to use their hands.
Can I really end a sentence with a preposition?
Rearranging sentences to fit a non-rule can make your writing cumbersome. If you rearrange one of the sentences above, you’re left with: But in English, that’s not a problem with which we have to deal.
That sentence sounds fine if you’re a 18th-century butler. But I’m guessing anyone reading this blog isn’t.
So first, it’s common sense and common usage to end with prepositions. And if that’s not enough to sway you, remember that all the grammar sources I checked said that it’s fine. If you feel like avoiding ending a sentence with a preposition, it’s just a matter of style.
Whether you feel like using your prepositions willy-nilly or want to keep rearranging your sentences around them is up to you. I just hope that now you have a little more background. After all, your education is for what I am here.