Position Of Prepositions In Sentences

Most scientific communicators seem to know the rule that prepositions should not end a sentence. However, by rigidly adhering to this rule, writers run the risk of producing stilted, confusing messages. According to an old story, Winston Churchill once made this comment about a sentence that clumsily avoided a prepositional ending: "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put!" (In: Plain Words, by Sir Edwin Gowers, first published in 1948).

Most modern grammarians and linguists take a more open approach to this rule - some even go so far as to state that the rule should be done away with. (Note the preposition "with" at the end of the sentence!)

The following examples are grammatically correct, although the final word of the sentence happens to be a preposition:

^ You may question what this rule is for.

The patients were asked whether they found the diary easy to work with.

The effect of the ointment depended on the body part it was applied on.

Although prepositions at the end of a sentence are no longer an issue, we may still be on safer ground if syntax can be rearranged. Let us consider the following example:

^ Acceptable but awkward: Computer technology was the main subject he opted for.

Preferable: He opted for computer technology as his main subject.

Clearly, we shift the emphasis from "computer technology" in the first sentence to the person ("he") in the second. Often, the emphasis is intended, and in these cases you may end your sentence with a preposition if deemed appropriate.

o Although you may end a sentence with a preposition, place the preposition within the sentence if the same meaning is achieved.

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