Prepositioning for failure

Posted on Mon 19 Nov 2012 @ 12.20pm UTC

YOU have only one job and one job only, yet…

As you may have noticed, the chart tries to give us a sense of various English prepositions.

A preposition [prep-puh-zish-uhn, /ˌprəpəˈzɪʃən/] is a part of speech that shows the relationship of one word to another so as to provide spatial, figurative or some other meaning or grammatical form. Prepositions are most usually used with nouns, pronouns and other substantives to modify verbs, nouns or adjectives. The word preposition (n) itself dates from 1300–1400.

By the way, the word preposition (vt) itself is also a transitive verb (one used with an object). It dates from 1960–65 and means to position in advance or beforehand (e.g. to preposition troops in the forward edge of battle area). It is pronounced as in pre-position [pree-puh-zish-uhn, /ˌpripəˈzɪʃən/].

What’s missing

You don’t have to be a native speaker to spot at once a few more very common prepositions missing from the chart:—

  • ahead of
  • away from
  • beneath
  • by
  • for
  • since
  • underneath
  • upon (which is different from just on)
  • with
  • within
  • without

If you’re not academically snobbish, Wikipedia has a fairly full list of English prepositions [HERE]. That list comes from an established, mainstream academic source, so you really can’t object to it.

A word of warning

By the way, there is a very commonly taught (but highly misleading) ‘rule’ about prepositions: not to end a sentence with a preposition.

The origin of this misleading and incorrect rule comes from Latin. In Latin, it is wrong to end with a preposition simply because it’s impossible to end with one, so the rule itself is already wrong to say we “cannot” end with a preposition.

We suggest you don’t lap it up like gospel. The end result of following this no-prepo rule forces you into forming stilted sentences. Stilted sentences make you sound as if you’re lying. All passive sentences are stilted. (See what we mean?)

The Latin-based preposition rule is also wrong because English is an Anglo-Saxon language in origin and English grammar doesn’t operate the same way as Latin. The rule doesn’t fit English.

Very often, grammarians (and grammar aficionados) shoehorn Latin grammar into English for no other reason than to make themselves appear more ‘learned’ (especially to browbeat you). We recommend you don’t do despicable ‘soloing techniques’ like that.

There’s a reality about following the no-preposition rule too. The more you shoehorn your preposition usage by this rule, your English fluency actually gets worse, therefore you require more lessons. The more lessons, the more you pay up or get out. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Even in formal speech and formal writing, the final preposition is normal and idiomatic, especially in questions:—

What are we waiting for?

Where are we at?

If you ever analysed Queen Elizabeth II’s speech patterns since her inthronization (i.e. enthronement) in 1952, you will have noticed H.M. ‘Brenda’ uses final prepositions all the time. You can search for them on your own via Google.

Those of us who actually grew up in an English-speaking country or environment are giggling senseless right now because 99% of us will forever recall this joke:—

“Where’s the library at?”

“You cannot end a sentence with a preposition. And contractions are wrong.”

“Okay. Where is the library at, asshole?”


(hat tip to rainbow-w for the inspiration)

© Learn English or Starve, 2012. Image via Readlife.

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