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Ending Sentences With
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
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
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.
You might not be able to live with them. (emphasizing
© Copyright David Bowman. All Rights
David Bowman is the Owner and Chief Editor of Precise
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