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Prepositions at the End of Sentences?

English teachers throughout our lives taught us to never, ever end a sentence with a preposition. For instance, “What did you say that for?” would be rewritten in red ink to read, “Why did you say that?” in order to avoid that final preposition.

However, I read an interesting article from Daily Writing Tips where author Maeve Maddox asserts the tide is turning. She quotes renowned grammarian H.W. Fowler (A Dictionary of Modern English Usage):

Those who lay down the universal principle that final prepositions are ‘inelegant’ are unconsciously trying to deprive the English language of a valuable idiomatic resource, which has been used freely by all our greatest writers except those whose instinct for English idiom has been overpowered by notions of correctness derived from Latin standards.

Maddox summarizes, saying, “As writers, we need to be aware of the rules of our medium and strive not to write anything barbaric, i.e., unidiomatic. We need to be alert to differences between formal and informal expression…We need to stay true to our instinctive grasp of our native language.”

This perspective grants writers creative freedom along with the responsibility to be true with their use of the language. Now, that’s some food for your writing mind!

Read the complete article here at Daily Writing Tips.


  • Jas
    Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    I believe in the first example, “on” is indeed a preposition it’s shorthand for “onto the wagon.” However, I agree with the sense of the article. Thank you.

  • Kit Dwyer
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    I liked reading that article, Patricia. It made me think of my own pet peeve, “Where is it at?”. Its interesting to hear that acceptable grammar can change over time. I suppose that also depends upon the culture in which one lives.

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