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Is a preposition something you can end a sentence with?

Merriam-Webster shocked some English nerds by debunking a preposition "rule." Here's where it came from in the first place.
Is a preposition something you can end a sentence with?
Posted at 7:25 PM, Feb 29, 2024

There were a few things drilled into our heads back in English class: "Funner" isn't a word. Neither is "stupider." Don't start a sentence with a conjunction. Don't end one with a preposition. The list goes on.

But as you can see by how I started this sentence, it turns out the English language is a bit more flexible than some of our teachers told us, and sometimes those rules are really just based on preference. Doesn't that make it all so much funner?

Still, when America's "most trusted dictionary," Merriam-Webster, says a grammatical "rule" you've followed your whole life isn't actually one at all, it doesn't make matters any less confusing.

That's what happened when Merriam-Webster made an Instagram post last Thursday declaring it's "permissible in English for a preposition to be what you end a sentence with."

The random announcement expectedly drew ire from the by-the-book folks — with one writing, "If this account isn't low-breaking every grammar geek's heart, idk what is" — but it drew applause from pretty much everyone else. 

One user said, "Thank you! The idea that you cannot end a sentence with a preposition is an idle pedantry that I shall not put UP WITH." Another called back to those rule books, saying, "I'd like to formally request a review of my English Lit grade from 11th grade."

So what's the big hubbub? Let's take a gander back to the classroom.

What is a preposition?

Prepositions are typically small, common words that show the relationship between a noun or pronoun and another element in a clause. These terms can indicate the direction, time, location or introduction of an object.

For example, in the sentence, "The neighbor is at the door," at is the preposition indicating location. In "We will be there by noon," by is the preposition indicating time.

It's long been thought that ending a sentence with a preposition instead of following the word with an object is grammatically wrong, but many people still do so in phrases like "Who are you here with?" or "This is what I came for." And after Merriam-Webster's new note, speaking this way appears to no longer be something we have to feel bad about!

SEE MORE: Dictionary.com just added over 500 words. Here are some you may know

Where'd this "rule" come from?

According to Merriam-Webster's Instagram post — which donned the caption, "This is what we're talking about" — the idea that prepositions shouldn't end a sentence "came from writers who were trying to align the language with Latin, but there is no reason to suggest ending a sentence with a preposition is wrong."

One person who did suggest it was wrong was 17th-century poet John Dryden, whom many people believe originated the "rule." In 1672, he said playwright and poet Ben Jonson ending sentences with a preposition was "a common fault with him."

"Jonson probably didn't take much heed of this admonition, seeing as how he was dead, but untold millions of people have suffered in the subsequent years as a result," Merriam-Webster states.

Meanwhile, others blame grammarian Joshua Poole for creating the "rule" and Dryden for popularizing it. Dryden wrote in his book "The English Accidence" that propositions should be placed in "their natural order," as they can't end sentences in the Latin language. 

There's also a famous Winston Churchill quote in which he avoids ending his sentence with a preposition, saying, "This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put." However, linguist Ben Zimmer says the often-attributed quote was almost certainly never spoken by the former prime minister.

Merriam-Webster says most grammar and usage guides concluded the "rule" was unnecessary by the 20th century, yet many people have had a hard time letting it go. The dictionary company says that it's fine to follow the rule if you choose, but don't force others to do the same.

"If you don't like to end your sentences with prepositions, you don't have to — just don't say that it is a rule," it says on its website. "And if you like to end your sentences with a succinct with, go right ahead and keep doing so — just don't quote Winston Churchill when someone says that you shouldn't."

And for your other questions, yes, you can start a sentence with "And." And yes, funner and stupider are, in fact, real words.


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