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Ending Sentences with Prepositions

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So a visitor at Harvard stops a student and asks, “Excuse me, can you please tell me where is the library at?”

The Harvard students replies, “Sir, this is Harvard. We don’t end our sentences with prepositions.”

The visitor then says, “Oh, I’m sorry. I meant to ask, where is the library at, jerk?”

As this joke perfectly illustrates, ending a sentence with a preposition is common. In fact, it’s the way most of us speak. When it comes to writing, however, you run the risk of being scoffed at by grammar nazis. Before we go any further, however, let’s review the definition of a preposition.

Preposition

A word that creates a relationship between other words by indicating location or time. It usually comes before a noun. Examples: above, by, over, before, after, since.

So when is it okay to end sentences with prepositions? Basically, you can always end sentences with prepositions as long as they’re necessary to the meaning of the sentence.

Good

“What are you listening to?” If you take the preposition “to” out of the sentence it no longer makes sense. Therefore, it’s necessary. You could say “To what are you listening?” to avoid the preposition at the end, but it would look and sound strange.

Bad

“Are you coming with?” This is a good example of when NOT to end a sentence with a preposition. Why? Because you can just easily say the same thing without the “with.” If the sentence makes sense without the preposition at the end then take it out!

That’s all there is to it. See, prepositions aren’t so difficult after all. Have fun with them and don’t be afraid to put them at the end of sentences!

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