Apr 16, 2010

Grammar 101 - Part 3 Prepositions

We’ve all heard the rule, don’t end a sentence with a preposition. But rarely does anyone delineate what a preposition is. So what is a preposition?

A preposition is a word that links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. They indicate location.

**** AN EXEPTION****

Sometimes, a word that looks like a preposition is actually a part of a verb and is called a particle. (Side note: I hate the word particle.)

Here’s an example: “Miguel turned up the radio.”

Up is a preposition, but in this case it is actually a particle. It is part(icle) of the verb “Turned up”. If you’re not sure if it’s a particle or a preposition, try this test: place the word that you are unsure of at the beginning of the sentence.

Up the radio Miguel turned. This sentence makes no sense, and thus you know that “Up” is a particle in the sentence.


Here are examples of prepositions (this is not a complete list, there are about 150 prepositions in the English language):

About • above •according to • across • after • against • along • along with • among • apart from • around • as • as for • at • because of • before • behind • below • beneath • beside • between • beyond • but • by • by means of • concerning • despite • down • during • except • except for • excepting • for • from • in • in addition to • in back of • in case of • in front of• in place of • inside • in spite of • instead of • into • like • near • next • of • off • on • onto • on top of • out • out of • outside • over • past • regarding • round • since • through • throughout • till • to • toward • under •underneath • unlike • until • up • upon •up to • with • within • without

If you’ll notice, “to” is listed in that big-ol-block of text. Yesterday in Who/Whom. I told you the correct way to ask the question was, “Whom does this jacket belong to?” but in reality, the “correct” way to ask this question is, “To whom does this jacket belong?” Because “to” is a preposition and therefore we should never end a sentence with it.

As with who and whom, sometimes using the correct grammar sounds stuffy, in the case of finding out who owns the jacket, it can get even stuffier when two rules are combined! Does that mean that we should ignore these rules? NO! If your grandmother was a stuffy old bag, you wouldn’t ignore her would you? I don’t care that prepositions don’t give you sweets, it is no reason to ignore them!

Often times, a sentence needs to be reworded completely in order to make sense AND follow grammatical law. For instance:

"That is nonsense up with which I shall not put." –W. Churchill.
That doesn’t work at all!

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