any member of a class of words found in many languages that are used before nouns, pronouns, or other substantives to form phrases functioning as modifiers of verbs, nouns, or adjectives, and that typically express a spatial, temporal, or other relationship, as in, on, by, to, since.
1350–1400; Middle English preposicioun
< Latin praepositiōn-
(stem of praepositiō
) a putting before, a prefix, preposition. See pre-
prepositional, adjectiveprepositionally, adverbnonprepositional, adjectivenonprepositionally, adverbquasi-prepositional, adjectivequasi-prepositionally, adverb
The often heard but misleading “rule” that a sentence should not end with a preposition is transferred from Latin, where it is an accurate description of practice. But English grammar is different from Latin grammar, and the rule does not fit English. In speech, the final preposition is normal and idiomatic, especially in questions: What are we waiting for? Where did he come from? You didn't tell me which floor you worked on.
In writing, the problem of placing the preposition arises most when a sentence ends with a relative clause in which the relative pronoun (that; whom; which; whomever; whichever; whomsoever
) is the object of a preposition. In edited writing, especially more formal writing, when a pronoun other than that
introduces a final relative clause, the preposition usually precedes its object: He abandoned the project to which he had devoted his whole life. I finally telephoned the representative with whom I had been corresponding.
If the pronoun is that,
which cannot be preceded by a preposition, or if the pronoun is omitted, then the preposition must occur at the end: The librarian found the books that the child had scribbled in. There is the woman he spoke of.