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  Ending Sentences With Prepositions
by David Bowman

English teachers can be wrong. For example, they may have told you to never split an infinitive or start a sentence with "because." Because most English teachers are not professional writers, many adhere to writing rules without understanding the underlying concepts of those rules. Another rule they may have told you is never to end a sentence with a preposition. This is a rule we agree with--to a point.

Here's why we basically agree: Prepositions typically BEGIN prepositional phrases, and, therefore, require an object of the preposition. [An example of a prepositional phrase is "off the street." The object of the preposition "off" is "street." To find the object, ask, "Off what?" The answer, "street," is the object.] A prepositional phrase cannot be completed if the preposition is the last word in the sentence.

However, sometimes those words that look like prepositions are used as part of a verb, in which case we have no problem putting them at the end of the sentence.

Here's a couple of examples to illustrate what we mean.

1. "She's the girl I want to get away from." "From" is being used as a preposition, but what is the object of the preposition? It's "the girl." This sentence could easily be revised to read, "She's the girl from whom I want to get away." A better revision might be "I want to get away from her." Notice that the second revision is more direct and, happily, has an object to the preposition "from." The second revision, though, emphasizes me and not the girl, so the first may still be the best revision to maintain the intent of the original sentence.

2. "She's the girl from whom I want to get away." "Away" seems like a preposition, but it is being used as part of the verb "get away," which is different than the action of getting. [Actually, in this case, "away" is being used as an adverb, but, for all practical purposes, it's acting like part of the verb.] "Get away" refers to a particular type of action, so we're fine with leaving "away" at the end of the sentence. This is like "I looked his phone number up." "Looked up" refers to a particular action and, though divided, is acting like a single verb.

Ultimately, you have to determine the appropriate level of formality in which you need to write. If the writing is casual, put those prepositions at the end. If the writing is meant to be formal and professional, then consider those ending prepositions very carefully and think about effective revisions. They might not be something you can live with.

Two more examples:
1. This is a rule we agree with.
This is a rule with which we agree. (emphasizing the rule)
We agree with this rule. (emphasizing us)

2. They might not be something you can live with.
They might not be something with which you can live. (emphasizing they)
You might not be able to live with them. (emphasizing you)

Copyright David Bowman. All Rights Reserved.



David Bowman is the Owner and Chief Editor of Precise Edit, a comprehensive editing, proofreading, and document analysis service for authors, students, and businesses. Precise Edit also offers a variety of other services, such as translation, transcription, and website development. Click here for more information about Precise Edit's services.


 



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