Grammar-QuizzesAdverbialsPrepositional Phrases › Ending w/Preposition

Ending with a Preposition

Consider placement options

A mismatch on a date
 

 

Two Placements — End of Clause vs. Before Interrogative Pronoun

PREP AT THE END OF CLAUSE

A clause with an interrogative pronoun —who(m), where, when, why, how —which takes the place of the object in a prepositional phrase, may be worded as a question with the preposition at the end of the clause. See Grammar Notes regarding the long disputed rule "no prepositions at the end".¹

QUESTIONS

Who(m) is a dating service for? ("for" is stranded at the end)

The dating service is for whom?

Who(m) did you give your number to?

You gave your number to who(m)?

What kind of hobbies are you interested in?

You are interested in what kind of hobbies?

What does she look like?

She looks like what?

Where do you come from?

You come from where?

What are you concerned about?

You are concerned about what?

Which card did you pay with?

You paid with which card?  

SHORT QUESTIONS

What for?   (expression)  purpose

Who for(expression)  recipient

Where to(expression)  toward a direction

What with(expression)  means or method, or tool
 

EMBEDDED QUESTIONS

Can you tell me what you are looking for?   (verbal idiom)

Do you know who she is talking to?  

Do you have any idea what this is for?    purpose

Please let me know which person you are interested in?  (verbal + PP) 
 

PREP BEFORE INTERROGATIVE PRONOUN

Some speakers prefer to keep the prepositional phrase together. They position the preposition before the interrogative pronoun at the beginning of the clause. While this placement is good for business and academic usage, it may sound overly formal in some contexts that are personal.                        

QUESTIONS

For whom is a dating service? 

Formal wording is appropriate for business, legal, and academic usage.

To whom did you give your number? 

 

In what kind of hobbies are you interested? formal

In which kind of program are you interested? 

Like what does she look?  not used

From where do you come?  very formal  

~About what are you concerned? 

This is overly formal wording for a personal context.

With which card did you pay? formal

 

SHORT QUESTIONS

For whatvery formal

For whom? very formal

To where? very formal

With whatvery formal

EMBEDDED QUESTIONS

Can you tell me for what you are lookingawkward

Do you know to whom she is talking

Do you have any idea for what this is? not used

Please let me know in which person you are interestedawkward

 

*not used / ~not preferred word choice, borderline usage or requiring a special context

interrogative pronoun –  who, what, where, why, when, how

¹terminal preposition use—the question of the correctness of a preposition at the end of a sentence or clause is one which has been under discussion for more than three centuries. See Grammar Notes below regarding this disputed rule.

 

 

 

 

Preposition Placement in an Infinitive or Passive Clause

Decide on level of formality to use

 

 

Infinitive and Passive Clauses — Final vs. Initial Placement

FINAL CLAUSE PLACEMENT — COMMON / LESS FORMAL

Final prepositions can occur at the end of sentences with infinitive or passive grammatical structures. This placement is common but somewhat less formal. (Below, brackets enclose the structure with the stranded preposition.)

INFINITIVE CLAUSE

This is a pleasant city [to live in]. 

(The preposition "in" is stranded at the end.)

These were delightful people [to talk with].   

PASSIVE CLAUSE

He likes [to be looked at].  (infinitive)

He likes [being looked at].  (gerund)

She likes [to be doted on]. 

She hates being fussed over].  (e.g., an actress)

She [was operated on].

This chair is new. It [hasn't been sat in]. 

INITIAL CLAUSE PLACEMENT — FORMAL

A passive or infinitive clause with a terminal preposition can be reworded by moving the preposition before the a relative (wh-) pronoun. This wording is not more correct but is used in contexts of more formal writing or speech.

REWORDED AS RELATIVE CLAUSE

This is a pleasant city [in which to live].

These were delightful people [with which to talk]. (or with whom)

REWORDED AS ACTIVE VOICE CLAUSE

He likes to be the guy [at whom someone looks].

He likes being the guy [at whom someone looks].

She likes to be the woman [on whom someone dotes].

She hates being the one [over whom people fuss].

She is the woman [on whom the doctor operated].

This is a chair [in which no one has sat].

 

dote (V) — attend to someone's needs in an attentive manner (positive meaning)

fuss (N) — attend to someone's needs in an annoying manner (negative meaning)

Related page:  Nonfinite Clauses — Timing & Voicing (infinitive, gerund, passive)

 

 

 

 

 

Omitting Prepositions

Determine whether a preposition is needed or not

 

 

Formality — Preposition Included vs. Preposition Omitted

INITIAL PLACEMENT — FORMAL CONTEXTS

In more formal speech and writing, the preposition is positioned before the interrogative pronoun.                                                                                                                                                                                        

PREP BEFORE INTERROGATIVE PRONOUN

On which day are you meeting?   We are meeting on Tuesday. 

At which time is your meeting?   My meeting is at 1 p.m.

For how long will you be visiting? I'll be visiting for a week.

REWORDING BEFORE ANOTHER PREPOSITION

I'll pick you up¹ at approximately 9:30 a.m. (avoid "at about")

*We're going to downtown. (downtown already includes a prep.)

We're going to town. (specify name of town or just "town")

NOUN + PREPOSITION + WHICH + INFINITVE

I have no money with which I can buy food.  

We have one day in which to do it.   We will do it in a day.

I need a pen with which I can write.

He needs a place in which he can live. 

WITH PARTICULAR WORDS

I'm staying ~at home. But: He's staying at my home. (He's a visitor.)

I'm going *to home.  (US Engl)   But: I'm going to my house.

Let's go ~to some place tonight. (Uncommon in US Engl)

("To" specifies a location, but "some place" is an unknown, inexact location.)

FINAL PLACEMENT (STRANDED  AT THE END) — INFORMAL

In less formal usage, the preposition is stranded (left by itself) at the end of the clause. If the preposition can be understood from context, It is preferable to omit the preposition rather than stranding it at the end.

PREP STRANDED AT END OF CLAUSE

What day are you meeting *on? (unnecessary)

What day are you meeting? (it is better to omit it.)

What time is your meeting *at?

What time is your meeting?

How long are you visiting *for?

How long are you visiting?

BEFORE ANOTHER PREPOSITION

I'll pick you up *at about 9:30. ("at" is unnecessary)

I'll pick you up about 9:30.

We're going *to downtown.  ("to" is unnecessary before "down")

We're going downtown²

NOUN + INFINITIVE + (PREPOSITION)

I have no money to buy food with(not incorrect, but unnecessary)

I have no money to buy food. 

We have one day to do it in(not incorrect, but unnecessary)

We have one day to do it. 

I need a pen to write with(not incorrect, but unnecessary)

I need a pen to write. 

He has to have a place to live in. (not incorrect, but unnecessary)

He has to have a place to live.

WITH PARTICULAR WORDS (not in final position)

I'm staying at home. (omit prep. before home)

I'm going to home.  (US Engl)   

Let's go *to some place tonight.   (omit "to" before some place)

We're heading *to north now.  (omit "to" before north, east, west, south)

 

*not used / ~borderline usage, awkward sounding

¹ Verbal phrases with prepositions. See Verbal Idioms (Phrasal Verbs) or True Prepositions vs. Particles (Idioms).

² Nouns that include prepositions sound awkward after a preposition for place/location (i.e., Place it up overhead in the storage bin.) — indoors, uphill, overhead, underfoot, ahead, downstairs, north, northward — except if the preposition is part of a verbal phrase (i.e., I'll pick you up at noon.)  See  Prepositions that include nouns.

 

 

 

 

 

Preposition Placement in a Modifying Clause

Reword for more formal contexts

 

 

Modifying Clause — Final vs Initial Placement

FINAL CLAUSE PLACEMENT— COMMMON / LESS FORMAL

A verb that takes a specified preposition (e.g. worry about, play against, depend on, approve of, etc.) may often occur with the preposition left at the end of the clause.   See Verb+Prep for a list of such verbs.

THE PREPOSITION AT THE END

A service —  that people depend on — should be on time.
                     that begins the clause                          that begins the clause

Show me the person — you wrote about(who is optional)

The person—I am interested in — doesn't want to talk to me.  (who is optional)

Can you tell me — what kind of person you are interested in?

Who knows — what my ideal person should be like.   

This is what I was worried about.
 

INITIAL CLAUSE PLACEMENT — FORMAL CONTEXTS

In formal writing and speaking contexts, the preposition is moved in front of the relative pronoun — which, who, whom, where, when, how — ("that" is not used.)

THE PREPOSITION AT THE BEGINNING

A service — on which people depend on — should be on time.
                                    move the word forward

Show me the person — about whom you wrote.

The person— in whom I am interested— does not want to talk to me.
 

Can you tell me — in what kind of person you are interested? awkward sounding

Who knows — like what my ideal person should be. awkward sounding

This is — about what I was worried.  awkward sounding

 

Related pages: All of which  |  Verb Phrases + Gerunds  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preposition Placement for Verbal Idioms

Avoid stranding the particle of a verbal idiom

 

 

Verbal Idioms — Together vs. "Stranded"

VERB KEPT WITH PARTICLE

A verbal idiom is a verb paired with a preposition, a "particle"; together they form a new meaning. The particle, should not be separated, "stranded" (separated from the verb, left by itself). It should be kept with the verb.

Clothing — which people try on — should be hung up afterwards.
                     that begins the clause                  that begins the clause

The word — that you looked up — is not in my dictionary.

This is a crime — that you won't get away with.
 

VERB SEPARATED FROM PARTICLE

A particle (preposition), which together with the verb forms a verbal idiom, cannot be separated.  The particle must be kept with the verb (e.g. look out, look over, get up, get off, have out, get on with, put up with, take off).         

*Clothing — on which people try   — should be hung up afterwards. 

*The word — up which you looked — is not in my dictionary.

*This is a crime — away with which you will not get

 

*not used / ~borderline usage, awkward sounding

a particle looks like a preposition, but in a verb-"preposition" combination does not carry meaning; instead, it combines with the verb to form a new meaning—a verbal idiom. Unlike a true preposition, a particle does not make sense when it is separated from the verb:  The subject *up which he looked was solar energy.  The subject which he looked up was solar energy.     See Preposition v. Particle.

a true preposition in a verb–preposition combination, adds more information about the activity expressed by the verb. A preposition still makes sense when it is stranded (positioned separately from the verb):  Solar enery was the subject about which he spoke.  Solar energy was the subject he spoke about.  See Verb+Prep for a list of such verbs.

look up (idiom) – find in a reference book, encyclopedia or dictionary

strand (V) – separate from, leave by itself, leave at the end. The preposition is stranded, not in its usual position before the object.  For example, the usual position for about is:  This is the book. I told you [about the book]. ⇒ This is the book about which I told you.  The stranded position for about is: What is this book about?  This is the book I told you about. 

Preposition stranding. a. What was she referring to?  b. This is the book she was referring to.   "Here to is stranded in that its complement is missing from the normal post-head position — missing, but recoverable from elsewhere in the construction."  (Huddleston and Pullum 626-31, 1433-4)

Wikipedia — P-stranding is a syntactic construction in which the preposition with an object occurs somewhere other than immediately adjacent to its object, for example, at the end of a sentence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

Where's it at? (slang expression)

~Where is it at?  (literal usage)  unspecific use of a final preposition

SOLUTION

Where's the action, excitement, cool stuff happening?

(The literal, joke answer is "'It' is between the 'is' and the 'at'.")

Where is it?   (omit the unnecessary preposition)

In which room is it?  In which city is it?

On which shelf is it?  On which street is it?

At which door is he?   At which address is he? 

Place the preposition before "which".   Prepositions of Place

 

*not used / ~borderline usage, awkward sounding

 

 

 

 

► Show Grammar Notes and Works Cited ▼ Hide Grammar Notes

Grammar Notes (Advanced)

Traditional and Linguistic Description

 

 

Traditional vs. Linguistic Description

TRADITIONAL DESCRIPTION
MERRIAM-WEBSTER

The question of the correctness of a preposition at the end of a sentence or clause is one which has been under discussion for more than three centuries.  As is not the case with some of the other long-lived topics examined in this book, recent commentators — at least since Fowler 1926 — are unanimous in their rejection of the notion that ending a sentence with a preposition is an error or an offense against propriety.  Fowler terms the idea "cherished superstition." and not only do the commentators reject the notion, but actual usage supports their rejection.  So if everybody who is in the know agrees, there's no problem, right?  Wrong.   It is not clear how the terminal preposition became an error.  The structure does not exist in Latin. (Merriam-Webster 763)

 

BURFIELD (FOWLER)

Preposition at end. (a) History of attitudes.  One of the most persistent myths about prepositions in English is that they properly belong before the word or words they govern and should not be placed at the end of a clause or sentence.  (Fowler goes on to cite several examples in the history of the "myth".)  3 Final Verdict.   In most circumstances, esp. in formal writing, it is desirable to avoid placing a preposition at the end of a clause or sentence, where it has the appearance of being stranded. But there are many circumstances in which a preposition may or even must be placed late, and others where the degree of formality required governs the placing. (Burchfield 619)

 

LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION
HUDDLESTON AND PULLUM

Instead of being dismissed as unsupported foolishness, the unwarranted rule against stranding [ending with a preposition] was repeated in prestigious grammars towards the end of the eighteenth century, and from the nineteenth century on it was widely taught in schools.  The result is that older people with traditional educations and outlooks still tend to believe that stranding is always some kind of mistake.  It is not.  All modern usage manuals, even the sternest and stuffiest, agree with descriptive and theoretical linguists on this… (Huddleston & PULLUM 627)

 

QUIRK / GARNER

A prejudice against such deferred (or 'stranded') prepositions … remains in formal English which, for direct or indirect questions and for relative clauses, offers the alternative of an initial preposition.  The alternative construction is often felt, however, to be stilted and awkward especially in speech.  In some cases, such as the following, the deferred preposition has no proposed alternative… (Quirk 9.4)

 

"The spurious rule about not ending sentences with prepositions is a remnant of Latin grammar, in which a preposition was the one word that a writer could not end a sentence with." (Garner 654)

Correct and Natural — "people worth talking to"
Correct and Stuffy — "people to whom it is worth talking" 

 

 

Works Cited

  • Fowler's Modern English Usage. R. W. Burchfield and H. W. Fowler, revised 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2004.
  • Garner's Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner, 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2009.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. Reprint ed., Merriam-Webster, 1994.
  • Quirk, Randolph and Sidney Greenbaum. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. 7th ed., Longman Group, 1989.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Advice on Visiting Athens

information booth
 

 

Read the Paragraphs (with terminal prepositions)

When traveling to a city such as Athens, Greece you may find yourself wandering through its streets and not knowing where you are going to. The old part of Athens, called "the Plaka", has a number of little streets leading in and out. Half the time you won't know the direction you are walking in.

Fortunately, Athens has a lot of little kiosks called "peripteros" with vendors to help you out. Periptero vendors usually know the city pretty well and can show you a map and point to the place you are looking for. Also, inside a periptero, you can find drinks, snacks, ice cream and almost anything you are in need of. For example, you can find a sun-brella, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect your skin with.

You can even find such things as a deck of cards, a toothbrush, aspirin, or hand-sanitizer to clean your hands with. In the past, peripteros had public phones to make calls on. However, this service was discontinued since most people carry mobiles to make calls with. 

Most locals (Greeks living in the Plaka) are happy to help you find your way provided that you have a map to point to. Otherwise, their instructions in Greek might not be easy to make out. If you should find yourself lost, take a break, find a little café, and order a drink to refresh yourself with. Relax and look around at the scenery that you are surrounded by.

kiosk (N) – a small structure having one or more sides open, used as a newsstand, refreshment stand, bandstand, information or security center

make out (verbal idiom) – interpret or understand  I can't make out his handwriting.

periptero (N) – a small portable store on the sidewalk of a Greek city that sells small, commonly requested items

provided that – as long as; under the condition that

vendor (N) – a person who works in the kiosk, usually the owner

 

 

 

 

Can the terminal preposition be repositioned in the clause—yes or no?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or the "check 1-14" button.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Commonly Heard

 

 

 

Read the Conversation

What's up? 

Not much.  We're going to take off.

Where are you off to?

There's a pick-up game down in Mid-town.

Where's it at?

Those basketball courts with the name I can't think of.

OK.  I'll catch up with you later. I have something I have to check out.

 

 

 

 

Formal or Informal?

  1. Select a response correct or incorrect.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 11-20" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

15.
What's up?

     

16.
Not much.  We're going to take off.

     

17.
Where are you off to?

     

18.
Where's it at?

     

19.
Those basketball courts with the name I can't think of.

     

20.
OK.  I'll catch up with you later. I have something I have to check out.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Match Maker

Hearts Entwined
 

 

Read the Paragraphs (with terminal prepositions)

Match Maker is a website that is good for finding a relationship. 

First, you have to write a personal profile that will interest the kind of person you want to appeal to. The profile consists of your picture and brief description of yourself.  You shouldn't make things up!  You should include things that you are interested in. It helps to include things engage in, specialize in, and believe in. It also helps to include things you don't care for.

Then, Match Maker will return a list of people that match up. After you read their profiles, you can decide whom you want to get in touch with.

You can send a person a "wink".  If the person winks back, then messages can be exchanged.  You can talk about whatever you want to talk about. If there is a connection, the two people can agree to meet up. Otherwise, they continue on.

A person can return to Match Maker several times to find the person s/he is dreaming of.

That's how I found my bride, whom I am devoted to.

appeal to (verb + prep combination) – interest, cause to be interested

bride (N) – female that one intends to marry or has recently married

devote (V) – give one's full attention to something

engage in (verb + prep combination) – be active in ; (e.g., hobbies, charities, sports)

get in touch with (verbal idiom) – contact

make up (verbal idiom) – invent (lie)

specialize in (verb + prep combination) – have particular skills and do well

wink (v. / n.) – close an eye with the intention of flirting

 

 

 

 

Practice repositioning the preposition.  Remove the final preposition from the "terminal position" (end).

Though it is acceptable to leave a preposition at the end of a sentence, the wording can be changed if the context or formality requires it.

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your responses to the feedback by clicking the "Check" or "Check 21-30" button.

 

21.
First, you have to write a personal profile that will interest the kind of person you want to appeal to.  


22.
The profile consists of your picture and brief description of yourself. You shouldn't make things up!  You should include things that you are interested in.


23.
It helps to include things you engage in, specialize in, and believe in. It also helps to include things you don't care for.


24.
Then, Match Maker will return a list of people that match up.


25.
After you read their profiles, you can decide whom you want to get in touch with.


26.
You can send a person a "wink". If the person winks back, then messages can be exchanged. You can talk about whatever you want to talk about.


27.
If there is a connection, the two people can agree to meet up.


28.
Otherwise, they continue on.


29.
A person can return to Match Maker several times to find the person s/he is dreaming of.


30.
That's how I found my bride, whom I am now devoted to.