Prepositions In Our Language


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We actually use prepositions in our spoken, as well as written language, more than we think we do. Prepositions are a necessary part of our everyday communication. But what is a preposition? The word preposition means the word before. On the most general level preposition is an uninflected word class, a function or grammatical word. In grammar, a preposition is a type of ad position, a grammatical article that establishes a relationship and connecting between an object (usually a noun phrase) and some other part of the sentence, often expressing a location in place or time. In common speech, the object of a preposition may be implied. For instance, “Get in the car" may be shortened to “Get in. " One school of thought believes that it is acceptable to treat prepositions as adjectives, nouns, or adverbs, in which case, the “in" in “Get in" acts as an adverb. Even if the object can be implied the preposition does never work as a clause constituent on its own. Only the prepositional phrases make sense. In itself, a preposition is rather meanless and hard to define in mere words. It’s easier to use our hands to show that something is situated in relationship to something else then to describe it by words.

Prepositional phrases As mentioned above, prepositions are nearly always combined with other words in structures called prepositional phrases. A prepositional phrase consist of a preposition, which is a head of a prepositional phrase and a prepositional complement which is usually a noun phrase, a noun or a pronoun I gave it to him, a nominal wh- clause from where he stood, a nominal -ing phrase by standing here or a prepositional phrase until after the war. Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where is something happening, they can also perform other functions. For instance in the sentence He owns the house on the corner, the preposition on indicates that the words the corner express the location of the house referred to in the rest of the sentence. Similarly, in the sentence we are waiting for her, the preposition for indicates that the word her expresses the reason for the action of waiting referred to in the rest of the sentence. A prepositional phrase at the beginning of a sentence constitutes an introductory modifier, which is usually a signal for a comma. Prepositional phrase can be made up of a lot of different words. A preposition followed by a determiner and an adjective or two, followed by a pronoun or noun (called the object of the preposition), this whole phrase takes on a modifying role, acting as an adjective or an adverb, locating something in time and spare, modifying a noun, or telling when or where or under what conditions something happened. Although the basic object of a preposition is a noun phrase, there are cases in which another kind of phrase forms a preposition's object. For instance, in the sentence “Come out from under the bed", the object of the preposition from is another prepositional phrase under the bed. Furthermore, according to some analyses, in the sentence “I opened the door before he walked in", before is not a conjunction but rather a preposition whose object is a full sentence (he walked in).

A combination of verb and preposition is called a phrasal verb (hold on, keep back). The word that is joined to the verb is then called a particle.

Function of prepositions Most English prepositions have several different functions. For example the preposition at has eighteen different main uses (a point in time, a specific location, a condition, an activity, a price, a direction, and many others) and those may correspond to several different prepositions in another language. At the same time, different prepositions can have very similar uses. We say in the morning, on Monday morning or at night.

Many noun, verbs and adjectives are normally used with particular prepositions. We say the reasons for, arrive at, angry with, on a bus. Often the correct preposition cannot be guessed, and we have to learn the expression.

Classification of prepositions Classification according to word- class origin distinguishes between true prepositions (off, in, to, for, with, on, by, at), called primary or central and secondary or marginal prepositions, prepositions having affinities with other word classes. It is often difficult to distinguish between these two classes, because many prepositions are probably non- prepositional origin, but the origin is not certain (prepositions deriving from adverbs above, around, outside, non- finite verb forms of participles considering, regarding, past, adjectives contrary to, irrespective of, or nouns atop, thanks to and sources of etymology sometimes differ). We can also distinguish between general- language prepositions and prepositions used in technical language (minus, over, plus). Very important is also the structural classification which divides prepositions into simple, single- word prepositions (but, because) and complex, multi- word prepositions (in the eyes of, for the prevention of). According to the number of their constituents multi word prepositions may be subdivided into two- word sequences (along with, up to) and three- word sequences (in regard to, in view of).

Difficulties with prepositions Prepositions are not a favorite treatment in standard grammars where they are given only a few pages or a small number of monographs dealing with prepositions. It creates the impression that they are a straightforward topic which presents no problems either theoretical or practical, but the opposite is true. Monographs such as those by D. C. Bennett or K. G. Lindquist prove that prepositions are far from easy when it comes to systematic theoretical description of their semantic or syntagmatic relations. The complexity of their description is equally reflected in the uneven attention given to the different formal and semantic categories of relations. Prepositions create a lot of troubles for students for whom English is a second or foreign language. We say we are at the hospital to visit a friend who is in the hospital. We lie in bed but on the couch. We watch a film at the theatre but on television. For native speakers, these little words present little difficulty, but if students try to learn another language they will quickly discover that prepositions are always troublesome in every language.

To avoid all the potential difficulties with prepositions, every English learner should buy a proper dictionary. The only way to remember all the prepositions is to begin to master the difficulties of preposition usage through practice and paying close attention to speech and the written word.

Main problems with using prepositions:

1. Ending a sentence with a preposition There is one ”rule” which seems to be (according to many publications) a capital crime we can commit when using English and it is ending a sentence with a preposition. This rule comes from Latin where the placement of preposition is very important. Latin sentence can be confusing if the preposition does not appear in the right place. In 1500s and 1600s grammarians frequently applied Latin rules to English. Today, in daily speech the most common dialects still use this rule. (To what place was the package sent?)On the other hand in informal American English is this rule often broken? (What place was the package sent to?) However, in British English it is quite a common mistake to put the preposition in the end of the sentence; the sentence ending with preposition is an easy rule to get caught up on. Although it is often easy to remedy the wrong preposition, sometimes it isn't, and repair efforts sometimes result in a clumsy sentence. Indicate the book you are quoting from" is not greatly improved with “Indicate from which book you are quoting. " There is one joke about ending the sentence with preposition: While editing the proof of one of his books, Winston Churchill spotted a sentence that had been clumsily rewritten by the editor to eliminate a preposition at the end. The elder statesman mocked the intention with a comment in the margin: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put. "

2. Using unnecessary prepositions in everyday speech, we fall into some bad habits, using prepositions where they are not necessary. It would be a good idea to eliminate these words altogether, but we must be especially careful not to use them in formal, academic prose. She met up with the new coach in the hallway. The book fell off of the desk. He threw the book out of the window. She wouldn't let the cat inside of the house. [or use “in"] Where did they go to? Put the lamp in back of the couch. [use “behind" instead] Where is your college at?

3. Using prepositions in parallel form When two words or phrases are used in parallel and require the same preposition to be idiomatically correct, the preposition does not have to be used twice. You can wear that outfit in summer and in winter. The female was both attracted by and distracted by the male's dance.

However, when the idiomatic use of phrases calls for different prepositions, we must be careful not to omit one of them. The children were interested in and disgusted by the movie. It was clear that this player could both contribute to and learn from every game he played. He was fascinated by and enamored of this beautiful woman. There is a lot of things to say about prepositions. They are the subtlest but at the same time the most useful words in the language for compressing a clear meaning into few words. Each preposition has its proper and general meaning (usually more them one, unfortunately for English students) which, by frequent and exacting use, has expanded and divided into a variety of meanings more or less close to the original one. That is why it is very difficult to study prepositions and why people say that who knows all prepositions knows the language well.

Mary Anne Winslow is a member of Essay Writing Service counselling department team and a dissertation writing consultant. Contact her to get free counselling on custom essay writing.


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