Ending with Prepositions

Seventeenth-century poet John Dryden seems to be the first person ever to say that we shouldn’t end sentences with prepositions. Dryden and the eighteenth-century grammarians who followed his lead knew that Latin grammar forbids placing a preposition at the end of a sentence. They believed English would be more like Latin if this proscription applied to English grammar as well; they further believed that English should be more like Latin. These beliefs are untrue, illogical, and utterly absurd.

Consider the following response, widely attributed to Winston Churchill, to an editor’s attempted correction of sentences ending in prepositions:

“That is the type of nonsense up with which I will not put.”

That sentence succinctly demonstrates the silliness of forbidding prepositions at the end of English sentences. (Note how much clearer the sentence sounds when you put the preposition at the end: “That is the type of nonsense I will not put up with.”)

A preposition at the end of a sentence may occasionally sound weak or anti-climactic, but that is no reason to impose a total ban on them.

First-Rate Writers End Sentences with Prepositions

“What they do is as bad as what they believe in.”
— Mark Helprin, “The Canon Under Siege” (xx)

“The Afganistan attack, which took place on the same night as the Sudan fiasco, is more easily disposed of.”
— Christopher Hitchens, No One Left To Lie To (93)

“This is something to look forward to.”
— Vladimir Nabokov, Strong Opinions (243)

“For him, there was no forward, no future to move into.”
— Andrew Sullivan, Virtually Normal (190)


Page Last Updated: 30 August 2016