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Sentence endings

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Sentences end with final punctuation: a full stop, a question mark or an exclamation mark. But what about just before that final punctuation? What about prepositions, those words you should never end a sentence with?

According to the Chicago Manual of Style (the reference book for editors in the world of publishing): The traditional caveat of yesteryear against ending sentences with prepositions is, for most writers, an unnecessary and pedantic restriction. As Winston Churchill famously said, “That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put.”

However, you might be unlucky. The reviewer of your first three chapters, or the judge of your story in a competition, might prefer you not to break this rule.

So, what’s a preposition anyway?

Prepositions introduce phrases  which provides more information about whatever has gone before in the sentence. The phrase describes position in time or space, or how something happens.

  • Time: Let’s start at nine o’clock.
  • Space: Meet me by the fountain.
  • Manner: Dress like a princess.

Prepositions are usually short words –  a single syllable such as: as, at, but, by, down, for, from, in, like, near, of, off, on, out, past, per, plus, round, save, since, than, through, till, to, up, via, with.

Some are slightly longer: aboard, about, above, abreast, across, after, against, along, alongside, amid, among, anti, around, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, besides, between, beyond, despite, during, except, inside, into, minus, onto, opposite, outside, over, throughout, toward, underneath, unlike, until, upon, versus, within, without.

How do propositions end up at the end of a sentence?

Start with a simple sentence:

The cat sat on the mat.

The ‘cat’ is the subject (the important part of the sentence) and ‘sat’ is the verb (what the cat is doing). The preposition ‘on’ starts the phrase which tells you where the cat sat.

If you want to focus on the mat instead … the sentence can be turned around:

Hey! Isn’t that the mat the cat sat on?

Notice a ‘which’ has been left out (as it’s not really needed, yet).

Hey! Isn’t that the mat which the cat sat on?

If you want to avoid having ‘on’ at the end, slip it in earlier:

Hey! Isn’t that the mat on which the cat sat?

Still not sure how to punctuate the end of the sentence?

  • Use a full point for statements.
  • Question mark for questions. Okay?
  • Exclamation mark for exclamations!