Prepositions are a common and essential aspect of grammar in English language that comprise words like in, on, at, for, etc. placed before nouns or pronouns to show their relationship to other words within a sentence. However, the concept of ending a sentence with a preposition, or "preposition stranding," has typically been a contentious issue in English grammar. This tutorial will guide you through this complex concept, highlighting when it is acceptable and when it's not.
The common misconception that a sentence should never end in a preposition has its roots in Latin grammar. In Latin, prepositions are strictly used before a noun or pronoun in a sentence, and cannot be used at the end. However, English grammar is not as stringent. In some cases, especially in informal spoken English, placing a preposition at the end of a sentence is more natural and clear.
'She is the person with whom I was talking.' (Very formal)
'She is the person I was talking to.' (Informal, conversational)
Guidelines for Ending a Sentence with a Preposition
Despite the heavy arguments against it, ending a sentence with a preposition is not necessarily incorrect. If the presence of the preposition at the end of the sentence contributes to its clarity or sounds more natural, then it's appropriate to be used. Here are some specific scenarios:
A prepositional phrase is a phrase in which a preposition introduces the object of the preposition. These phrases can often be used at the end of a sentence to make the sentence more natural.
'What are you talking about?'
When an infinitive phrase (to + verb) is used in a sentence, it’s acceptable to end a sentence with the preposition if it is part of the infinitive.
'It’s the best city to live in.'
When using relative clauses, ending a sentence with a preposition is often the most natural-sounding construction.
'This is the house that Jack built.'
Things to Avoid
Although it's acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition in many cases, there are specific scenarios to avoid. These include:
- Unnecessary Prepositions: If the meaning of the sentence is clear without the preposition, don’t use it. Avoid excessive fillers and extra words
- Formal Writing: While in conversation and informal writing it's fine, in formal writing, try to avoid ending sentences with prepositions.
Unnecessary preposition: 'Where are you at?' (Incorrect)
Proper usage: 'Where are you?
Formal writing: 'This is something with which I disagree.' (Not: 'This is something I disagree with.')
Throughout this tutorial, we've learned that ending a sentence with a preposition is acceptable depending on the context and formality of your writing or conversation. The key is to achieve a natural-sounding flow of conversation without compromising your sentence's clarity. Remember, English language is versatile and vibrant, and sometimes even breaking rules can add flavor to your communication.
Practicing what you've learned in actual conversation or writing scenarios will help you master when it's best to use a preposition at the end of a sentence. Being aware of the context of your communication and the formality level required will guide you in making an appropriate grammar decision.