Grammar Myth #1: Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

Grammar mythsThere are a lot of grammar myths floating around, perpetuated by well-meaning people who are, unfortunately, a little behind the times. But don’t blame them (or yourself, if you’re one of them); the English language is a work in progress. Rules that were actually taught in school years ago have been debunked, and others have taken their place. One rule that has no basis in fact but has been widely taught anyway is the prohibition against ending a sentence with a preposition. I used to buy into this one myself.

In case you aren’t familiar with the term, a preposition is a word that expresses a relationship to the word(s) it precedes. Some examples are in, on, from, by, to, for and with. An example of a sentence that ends with a preposition would be:

There are some things I will not put up with.

To understand why the rule prohibiting this structure is inappropriate, consider how silly the sentence becomes when rewritten to move the preposition from the end:

There are some things up with which I will not put.

According to The Chicago Manual of Style, the rule about ending a sentence with a preposition stems from an “ill-founded superstition.” This superstition probably started with people who studied Latin, which has a grammatical structure that doesn’t allow for sentences ending in prepositions.

If you disagree with what I’ve written in this post, please read my comments below.

Also, see grammar myth #2: You can’t begin a sentence with and or but.

You might also be interested in these related posts:


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8 Responses to “Grammar Myth #1: Ending a Sentence with a Preposition”

  1. Wouldn’t that be, “There are some things with which I will not put up,” with “put up” being a verb?

  2. Hi, Frungi. Thanks for stopping by.

    That example was actually a variation of a Winston Churchill quote. According to the Chicago Manual of Style (5.169 – Ending a sentence with a preposition), Churchill said, “That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put.”

  3. I will not put up with some things.Correcting the sentence is not that hard AND it makes perfect sense. My $.02 worth.

  4. Dad, you’re right. You can rewrite the sentence that way. (The euphony feels a little off for me though. I’d have to see it in the context of a paragraph.)

    The Winston Churchill remark was just an example to prove the larger point: You don’t have to worry if the sentence happens to end in a preposition. That’s not to say you can’t rewrite a sentence that ends in one; you just don’t have to.

  5. That is a poor example. I agree with Dad (posted May 9, 2008). You can rewrite the sentence that way or substitute the phrase “put up” with a more suitable word, such as tolerate.

  6. There may be many other ways to rewrite the sentence but the point I was trying to make is that ending it with a preposition isn’t wrong. I used that example because it’s famous, not because it’s well-written.

  7. Wordplay: given you felt it would be cumbersome to rewrite the sentence, when in fact it is quite a simple task, does not inspire confidence in other things you “know”…

  8. To address this one more time, it’s not that it can’t or shouldn’t be rewritten, it’s just that it’s not incorrect the way it is. That fact can be freeing for some writers. It’s up to the individual writer to decide when to rephrase and when to end a sentence with a preposition. As to what I “know”: If people don’t read what I wrote in the comments correctly, they can jump to conclusions and unwarranted criticism.