Historically, grammarians have described preposition stranding or P-stranding as the syntactic construction in which a so-called stranded, hanging or dangling preposition occurs somewhere other than immediately before its corresponding object; for example, at the end of a sentence. The term preposition stranding was coined in 1964, predated by stranded preposition in 1949, Linguists had previously identified such a construction as a sentence-terminal preposition or as a preposition at the end. This kind of construction is found in English, and more generally in other Germanic languages.
Preposition stranding is also found in languages outside the Germanic family, such as Vata and Gbadi (two languages in the Niger–Congo family), and certain dialects of French spoken in North America.
Wh-movement and P-stranding
Wh-movement—which involves wh-words like who, what, when, where, why and how—is a syntactic dependency between a sentence-initial wh-word and the gap that it is associated with. Wh-movement can lead to P-stranding if the object of the preposition is moved to sentence-initial position, and the preposition is left behind. Wh-movement and P-stranding are both observed in many languages.
Preposition stranding allowed under wh-movement
An open interrogative often takes the form of a wh- question (beginning with a word like what or who)
P-stranding in English allows the separation of the preposition from its object. From the below examples, we can see that if we move the preposition along with the wh-word, the sentence will be ungrammatical. The preposition needs to stay at the end of the sentence to make it grammatical.
P-stranding in Danish is banned only if the wh-word is referring to nominative cases. "Peter has spoken with <whom>", the wh-word <whom> is the accusative case. Therefore, p-stranding is allowed.
Hvem har Peter snakket med?
whom has Peter speak.PP with
‘Whom has Peter spoken with?’
- Directional constructions
Welk bosi liep hij ___i in?
which foresti walked he ___i into?
'What forest did he walk into?'
Waar praatten wij over?
where talked we about?
'What did we talk about?'
- Some dialects permit
- Qui est-ce que tu as fait le gâteau pour?
- whom did you bake the cake for?
- Standard French requires
- Pour qui est-ce que tu as fait le gâteau?
- For whom did you bake the cake?
Preposition stranding disallowed under wh-movement
Prepositional stranding under regular wh-movement is allowed in some dialects of German but banned in standard German.
For the interrogative word "woher" (from where / from what):
- Some dialects permit
Wo hat Marie das Kleid her bekommen?
where has Marie the dress from gotten?
'Where has Marie got the dress from?'
- Standard German requires
Woher hat Marie das Kleid bekommen?
wherefrom has Marie the dress gotten?
'From where has Marie got the dress?'
Wh-movement in Greek states that the extracted PP must be in Spec-CP, which means the PP (me) needs to move with the wh-word (Pjon). From this, we can see that Greek allows pied piping in wh-movement but not prepositional stranding.
Pjon milise me?
who she.speak.PAST with
‘Who did she speak with?’
Pied-piping is the only grammatical option in Spanish for constructing oblique relative clauses. Since pied-piping is the opposite of p-stranding, p-stranding in Spanish is not possible.
Qué chica ha habladó Peter con?
which girl.SG has talk.PP Peter with
'Who has Peter talked with?’
Emirati Arabic (EA)
P-stranding in EA is only possible using which-NPs that strand prepositions and follow them with IP-deletion.
ʔaj Mʊkaan laag-et John fi?
which place met-2MS John at
‘Which place did you meet John at?
The preposition (fi) should be moved together with the wh-word (ʔaj) in order to make this sentence grammatical. 
It should be:
f-ʔaj Mʊkaan laag-et John?
at-which place met-2MS John
‘At which place did you meet John at?
Libyan Arabic (LA)
P-stranding in wh-movement sentences are normally banned in LA. However, a recent study found that a preposition seems to be stranded in a resumptive wh-question.
man Ali tekəllem mʕa?
who Ali talked.3MS with
‘Who did Ali talk with?’
Sluicing and P-stranding
Sluicing is a specific type of ellipsis that involves wh-phrases. In sluicing, the wh-phrase is stranded while the sentential portion of the constituent question is deleted. It is important to note that the preposition is stranded inside the constituent questions before sluicing. Some languages allow prepositional stranding under sluicing, while other languages ban it. The theory of preposition stranding generalization (PSG) suggests that if a language allows preposition stranding under wh-movement, that language will also allow preposition stranding under sluicing. PSG is not obeyed universally; examples of the banning of p-stranding under sluicing are provided below.
Preposition stranding under sluicing
Prepositional stranding under sluicing is allowed in English because prepositional phrases are not islands in English.
- John laughed at someone, but I don’t know who
he laughed at.
Peter Peter har has snakket talk.PP med. with
Peter har snakket med en eller anden, men jeg ved ikke hvem
Peter har snakket med.
Peter has talk.PP with one or another but I know.PRES not who
Peter has talk.PP with
‘Peter was talking with someone, but I don’t know who.
Juan Juan ha has hablado talk.PP con. with
Juan ha hablado con una chica pero no sé cuál
Juan ha hablado con.
Juan has talk.PP with a girl but not know which
Juan has talk.PP with
‘Juan talked with a girl, but I don’t know which.’
John John ʃərab drank gahwa coffee wijja. with
John ʃərab gahwa. wijja sˤadiq, bəs maa ʕərf ʔaj sˤadiq
John ʃərab gahwa wijja.
John drank coffee with friend but not 1.know which friend
John drank coffee with
‘John drank coffee with a friend, but I don’t know which friend.’
illi that Ali Ali tekəllem talked.3MS mʕa-ah. with-him
Ali tekəllem mʕa waħed lakin ma-ʕrafna-š man (hu)
illi Ali tekəllem mʕa-ah.
Ali talked.3MS with someone but NEG-knew.1P-NEG who (PN.he)
that Ali talked.3MS with-him
‘Ali talked with someone, but we didn’t know who.’
P-stranding in other situations
A number of common Dutch adpositions can be used either prepositionally or postpositionally, with a slight change in possible meanings; for example, Dutch in can mean either in or into when used prepositionally, but can only mean into when used postpositionally. When postpositions, such adpositions can be stranded:
- short-distance movement:
[...] dat hij zo'n donker bos niet in durft te lopen [...]
[...] that he such-a dark forest not into dares to walk [...]
'[...] that he doesn't dare walk into such a dark forest [...]'
- Another way to analyze examples like the one above would be to allow arbitrary "postposition + verb" sequences to act as transitive separable prefix verbs (e.g. in + lopen → inlopen); but such an analysis would not be consistent with the position of in in the second example. (The postposition can also appear in the verbal prefix position: [...] dat hij zo'n donker bos niet durft in te lopen [...].)
Pseudopassives (prepositional passives or passive constructions) are the result of the movement of the object of a preposition to fill an empty subject position for a passive verb. This phenomenon is comparable to regular passives, which are formed through the movement of the object of the verb to subject position. In prepositional passives, unlike in wh-movement, the object of the preposition is not a wh-word but rather a pronoun or noun phrase:
- Some dialects permit
- Robert a été parlé beaucoup de au meeting.
- 'Robert was much talked about at the meeting.'
- Standard French requires
- On a beaucoup parlé de Robert au meeting.
Relative clauses in English can exhibit preposition stranding with or without an explicit relative pronoun:
- This is the book that I told you about.[a]
- This is the book I told you about.
To standard French ears, these constructs all sound quite alien, and are thus considered as barbarisms or "anglicismes". However, not all dialects of French allow preposition stranding to the same extent. For instance, Ontario French restricts preposition stranding to relative clauses with certain prepositions; in most dialects, stranding is impossible with the prepositions à (to) and de (of).
A superficially similar construction is possible in standard French in cases where the object is not moved, but implied, such as Je suis pour ("I'm all for (it)") or Il faudra agir selon ("We'll have to act according to (the situation)").
- Some dialects permit
- Tu connais pas la fille que je te parle de.
- 'You don't know the girl that I'm talking to you about.'
- Standard French requires
- Tu ne connais pas la fille dont je te parle.
- Another more widespread non-standard variant: Tu ne connais pas la fille que je te parle.
Dutch prepositions generally do not take the ordinary neuter pronouns (het, dat, wat, etc.) as objects. Instead, they become postpositional suffixes for the corresponding r-pronouns (er, daar, waar, etc.): hence, not *over het (about it), but erover (literally thereabout). However, the r-pronouns can sometimes be moved to the left, thereby stranding the postposition:
Wij praatten er niet over.
We talked there not about.
'We didn't talk about it.'
Some regional varieties of German show a similar phenomenon to some Dutch constructions with da(r)- and wo(r)- forms. This is called a split construction ("Spaltkonstruktion"). Standard German provides composite words for the particle and the bound preposition. The split occurs easily with a composite interrogative word (as shown in the English example) or with a composite demonstrative word (as shown in the Dutch example).
For example the demonstrative "davon" (of that / of those / thereof):
- Standard German requires
Ich kann mir davon nichts leisten.
I can me thereof nothing afford.
'I can't afford any of those.'
- Some dialects permit
Ich kann mir da nichts von leisten.
I can me there-[clipped] nothing of afford.
'I can't afford any of those.'
Again, although the stranded postposition has nearly the same surface distribution as a separable verbal prefix ("herbekommen" is a valid composite verb), it would not be possible to analyze these Dutch and German examples in terms of the reanalyzed verbs *overpraten and *vonkaufen, for the following reasons:
- The stranding construction is possible with prepositions that never appear as separable verbal prefixes (e.g., Dutch van, German von).
- Stranding is not possible with any kind of object besides an r-pronoun.
- Prefixed verbs are stressed on the prefix; in the string "von kaufen" in the above sentences, the preposition cannot be accented.
- And pronunciation allows distinguishing an actual usage of a verb like "herbekommen" from a split construction "her bekommen".
Although preposition stranding has been found in English since the earliest times, it has often been the subject of controversy, and some usage advisors have attempted to form a prescriptive rule against it. In 1926, H. W. Fowler noted: "It is a cherished superstition that prepositions must, inspite of the incurable English instinct for putting them late [...] be kept true to their name & placed before the word they govern."
The earliest attested disparagement of preposition stranding in English is datable to the 17th century grammarian Joshua Poole, but it became popular after 1672, when the poet John Dryden objected to Ben Jonson's 1611 phrase "the bodies that those souls were frighted from". Dryden did not explain why he thought the sentence should be restructured to front the preposition. In his earlier writing, Dryden himself had employed terminal prepositions but he systematically removed them in later editions of his work, explaining that when in doubt he would translate his English into Latin to test its elegance. Latin has no construction comparable to preposition stranding.
Usage writer Robert Lowth wrote in his 1762 textbook A Short Introduction to English Grammar that the construction was more suitable for informal than for formal English: "This is an Idiom which our language is strongly inclined to; it prevails in common conversation, and suits very well with the familiar style in writing; but the placing of the Preposition before the Relative is more graceful, as well as more perspicuous; and agrees much better with the solemn and elevated Style." However Lowth used the construction himself, including a possibly deliberately self-referential example in the passage quoted above, and his comments do not amount to a proscription.
A stronger view was taken by Edward Gibbon, who not only disparaged sentence-terminal prepositions but, noting that prepositions and adverbs are often difficult to distinguish, also avoided phrasal verbs which put on, over or under at the end of the sentence, even when these are clearly adverbs. By the 19th century, the tradition of English school teaching had come to deprecate the construction, and the proscription is still taught in some schools at the beginning of the 21st century.
However, there were also voices which took an opposite view. Fowler dedicated four columns of his Dictionary of Modern English Usage to a rebuttal of the prescription:
The fact is that the remarkable freedom enjoyed by English in putting its prepositions late & omitting its relatives is an important element in the flexibility of the language. [...] That depends on what they are cut with is not improved by conversion into That depends on with what they are cut; & too often the lust of sophistication, once blooded, becomes uncontrollable, & ends with, That depends on the answer to the question as to with what the are cut." 
Overzealous avoidance of stranded prepositions was sometimes ridiculed for leading to unnatural-sounding sentences, including the quip apocryphally attributed to Winston Churchill: This is the sort of tedious nonsense up with which I will not put.
Today, most sources consider it to be acceptable in standard formal English. As O'Conner and Kellerman point out: "Great literature from Chaucer to Milton to Shakespeare to the King James version of the Bible was full of so called terminal prepositions." Mignon Fogarty ("Grammar Girl") says, "nearly all grammarians agree that it's fine to end sentences with prepositions, at least in some cases."
In French, P-stranding is usually attached to informal and casual language.
A few non-standard dialects of French seem to have developed preposition stranding as a result of linguistic contact with English. Preposition stranding has been found in areas where the Francophone population is under intense contact with English, including certain parts of Alberta, Northern Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Louisiana. It is found (but heavily decried) in very informal Quebec French. For example, Prince Edward Island French permits all three types of preposition stranding:
Standard European French does not have P-stranding whereas Poplack, Zentz and Dion (2011) suggest that the existence of preposition stranding occurs in French speakers who are linguistically close with English speaking places and individuals who code-switch as they are English-French bilinguals for example, Quebec, Canada.
- Cutts, Martin (2009). Oxford Guide to Plain English (Third ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-955850-6.
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- In transformational approaches to syntax, it is commonly assumed that the movement of a constituent out of a phrase leaves a silent trace, in this case following the preposition:
Whati are you talking about ___i?
This bed looks as if it i has been slept in ___i.
This is the booki thati I told you about ___i.
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