Madelyn, an 9th grader from Pennsylvania, writes:
I've heard that you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition. But I can't always figure out a way to avoid it without making the sentence sound really bad.
Such a smart girl! Of course you can't avoid it, and you shouldn't try. Show me someone who ruthlessly avoids ending sentences with prepositions, and I'll show you a really terrible writer.
This long-standing myth is a holdover from the days when the grammar police tried to make English into a Latin wannabe. As a result, generations of schoolkids were taught to never end a sentence with a preposition. But nowadays all good writers, editors, teachers and style guides accept that this non-rule should not be enforced. Truth is, it can't be enforced.
In natural, spoken English, we constantly end sentences with prepositions. She was acting goofy when Justin was around. He didn't know what he was up against. I need a friend I can count on. Now, I suppose I could say, I need a friend on whom I can count. But then I'd probably attract the sort of insufferable, uptight friends who sit around trying not to end their sentences with prepositions.
Just think about how we ask questions. What are you waiting for? Which company does she work for? What were we talking about? What has she gotten herself into? Have you seen him around? Mind you, there are alternatives that would also work, such as For what are you waiting? Into what has she gotten herself?, but they can sound terribly pretentious and stiff. Good speech and good writing sounds natural. Trust your ear.
- There's no rule against ending a sentence with a preposition.
- On the other hand, a sentence often reads better when the preposition comes before the subject, so try it out both ways. Mixing things up will make your writing much more interesting and readable.
- Never end a sentence with a preposition that serves no purpose. This is where we're at. People, stop saying this! The preposition 'at' adds nothing here, so lose it. This is where we are. That's better.
- Know your audience. If you're writing an essay for a teacher who's a known stickler for the old-school way of doing things, then you'll need to play the game so your grades don't tank.
Brush up on grammar basics: