Putting Prepositions IN their Place Putting Prepositions IN their Place | Shades of Crimson

Putting Prepositions IN their Place

by Davina on May 31, 2011

Are you confused about using prepositions correctly?

If the answer is yes, it’s no surprise that you are confused, because they have a variety of functions. Prepositions link nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence, indicating a relationship between those nouns, pronouns and other words. They also function as adverbs and adjectives, separately or in prepositional phrases.

According to The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition*, prepositions signal many kinds of relationships.

For example, a preposition may express:
a spatial relationship
{to} {from} {out of} {into};
{at} {for} {throughout} {until};
cause {because of} {on account of};
means {like} {with} {by};
possession {without} {of};
exceptions {but for} {besides} {except};
support {with} {for};
opposition {against}; or
concession {despite} {for all} {notwithstanding}.

Prepositional phrases

Prepositions are commonly found in what are called prepositional phrases. These phrases consist of a preposition, in addition to a noun or pronoun. As a unit they act as a separate part of speech, functioning as either an adverb or an adjective.

An adverbial prepositional phrase will answer the question How? When? or Where? In the following phrases the prepositional phrase is underlined and the preposition is italicized:

The cow jumped over the moon.
The mouse ran up the clock.

An adjectival prepositional phrase will answer the question Which one? In the following phrases the prepositional phrase is underlined and the preposition is italicized:

I was relaxed by the sound of the rain falling on the roof.
We watched the horse galloping across the field.

Prepositions at the end of a sentence?

When is it okay to use a preposition at the end of a sentence? In the case of the phrase London Bridge is falling down, the preposition “down” falls at the end of the sentence, but it is acting as an adverb that describes where the bridge is falling.

Some say you shouldn’t use a preposition at the end of a sentence, however, modern language is evolving and we are more often writing the way we speak.

The preposition “with” appears at the end of the following sentence: “Is that the pen she writes with?”

Those writers who aim to strictly follow the “rules” might rework this sentence to read, “Is that the pen with which she writes?”

But in all honesty, who talks like that these days?

What is your biggest challenge when working with prepositions?

Do you spend time reworking your sentences to avoid using prepositions at the end?

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Mike June 1, 2011 at 5:57 am

My biggest challenge with prepositions is knowing what they are. I’m fairly confident that I use them appropriately, so I guess I’m not too prepositionally challenged. ;)

Thanks for sharing this!
Mike´s last blog post ..Mountain sheep

Hilary June 1, 2011 at 8:06 am

Hi Davina .. I think I seriously need to come to Vancouver for some grammar lessons – learning from you would be fun wouldn’t it? I could visit a few places – see some friends in Surrey – is that right, and then go across and see cousins on VI .. sounds a good proposition to me .. if not a preposition too …

I try and correct my blog articles – but I sure am sure I don’t do a brilliant job for correct grammar .. I just feel is it ok – and go with it ..

Cheers for now – good to see you around and about again .. Hilary
Hilary´s last blog post ..Memorial Day- Memories and recognition

Davina June 1, 2011 at 9:11 am

LOL, Mike…
Same here! And you know what? I find that knowing what they are and where they’re “supposed” to go interferes with the writing process. Understanding that the words “across,” “down,” and “about” are prepositions hasn’t influenced where I put them in the sentence. Of course if you were entering a contest or writing to satisfy a university professor, that perspective might change :)

Hi Hilary.
We would learn together, I bet! The more I focus on grammar the more I feel myself just wanting to get the message across. As long as it is informative and entertaining, it is easy to understand and sounds good, I think that is all we can ask of ourselves. The trick *I* find with most writers goes beyond grammar “rules” in all honesty; it’s finding the “right” words when you just can’t quite put your finger on it. Pulling thoughts out of thin air and translating them into words. Prepositions just fall naturally where they need to be.

Hilary June 1, 2011 at 9:16 am

Hi Davina .. sounds like a good idea .. I’ll need a glossary to start with! My brain has so much going on – I really struggle for words .. and it frustrates me enormously as they just don’t pop out .. I guess it’s having so much happening – it’ll sort itself out.

Now to see what you said on FB .. see you anon .. cheers H
Hilary´s last blog post ..Memorial Day- Memories and recognition

patricia June 1, 2011 at 9:47 am

Wow Davina,
I have been using my dictate program because I can produce a post so much faster talking rather than typing…I am just amazed at how often I end a sentence when I am talking with one of those prepositions. Then when editing it seems rather hard to change…I see it as I edit and know I have broken the rule but obviously I am not hearing it any more when speaking – it has become the norm.

To irritate my Mother who was a perfectionist about such matters, I started using me and I incorrectly at the end of a sentence, I just use I all the time. Wow now I am having such a hard time changing it back to norm. I do not like it myself when my youngest starts a sentence, “Me and Joan are goin ah do something.” Starting with ME always offends but it is very Americanize.

I am getting lots of flack about my … in my writing. I just love the pause and then emphasis on the previous words. I started doing it when I was writing lots of weekly speeches, sermons, and weddings to indicate to the person who was giving those words out to the public that they needed to pause at that moment. I like them very much, but they seem to offend many.
patricia´s last blog post ..The Next Oprah

Davina June 2, 2011 at 1:22 am

Your mind is so busy, it’s hard to catch those words! You need a net of some sort… or a way to slow things down to focus.

Yes, you are right. It *has* become the norm to speak this way. My friend Julie was speaking to this on Facebook the other day. She so wisely said something to the effect that language is fluid and ever-changing. The written words are starting to catch up. LOL, I too feel funny starting a sentences with “Me and Joan…” Yet, saying “Joan and I,” seems too formal.

Are you referring to using ellipses (…) to indicate pauses? I use them so much more than I used to. I prefer writing with pauses in copy (though when I’m writing more formally I use commas or semi colons). Some writers will compose rather long sentences that can get by without a comma, but I find myself rushing through the read.

Hilary June 2, 2011 at 1:39 am

Hi Davina .. I’m getting there fortunately – have to …

But you know these magic little words “…” …. aren’t they great?! So pleased I’m ahead of the pack in this …?!

I make a concerted effort to write short paragraphs, which I sometimes link with “…” if necessary. I also seem to have a developed ‘a conversational style’ within the blog – and adding pictures brings it to light … especially the picture of the soldiers waist deep in the sea off Dunkirk in 1940 …

I can’t do txt and I can’t do bold and italics here .. I’ll have to get back to using those .. cheers to you both … Hilary
Hilary´s last blog post ..Memorial Day- Memories and recognition

Tom Volkar / Delightful Work June 2, 2011 at 6:47 am

If you’ve read anythiong that I’ve written you’d find that I don’t spend a lot of time following these rules. Probably because I did not pay attention in school to these subjects. Who knew I’d actuallyu be publishing anything back then.

I am happy to hear you say that it’s now okay to write like we speak. Maybe next it will be okay to speak like we really speak. :) Every time I hear myself saying “whom” out loud I wonder what the hell I’m talking about.
Tom Volkar / Delightful Work´s last blog post ..How To Make Your Idea A Real Business

Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations,Blue Sun Media June 2, 2011 at 6:53 am

I’m in the category of people who violate these rules all the time. When you are used to writing fiction and creating dialog, you get used to writing as a person WOULD sound, and not as they are SUPPOSED to sound.

I find that I have learned to write exactly how the conversation with another person would go in my head, rather than what the rules say.
(Who made up these stuffy old rules anyway?)

I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, but especially in the age of Facebook, I think writing has taken on more of a conversational tone, both in fiction and in copy-writing, and I am happy to break the rules until they fade away.
Wendi Kelly-Life’s Little Inspirations,Blue Sun Media´s last blog post ..Bonds of Blood &038 Spirit- Loyalties

Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations,Blue Sun Media June 2, 2011 at 6:55 am

Davina, I have no idea why that link is showing up there instead of the real last post, something isn’t working right and I’m not sure how to fix it. Please ignore! sorry!

Barbara Swafford June 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Hi Davina,

Another great lesson. I remember learning prepositions in school and while working in the business world tried hard to use them correctly, however now that I’m online, blogging, Facebooking and Tweeting, I don’t worry about them as much; both in my own writing and in the writings of others.
Barbara Swafford´s last blog post ..Increase Your Focus – Improve Your Blog

Davina June 3, 2011 at 11:46 am

Hi Hilary.
I see this conversational style coming up more and more. Those “…” are good for bridging thoughts and pausing. I think this is yet one more sign that we are more often writing the way we speak. I just took a peek at that picture on your post. Wow! Those soldiers stood shoulder deep in water for hours, waiting to board the vessels. Incredible.

Hi Tom.
You’re probably ahead of the game then ;) There are less rules to unlearn. LOL… “Maybe next it will be okay to speak like we really speak.” You can choose what impact you want to make by saying “whom” or “who…” :-)

Hi Wendi.
Don’t worry about the link – that’s happened to me a number of times too. I agree with you about Facebook – we are learning to be more casual with the keyboard… on Twitter too — 140 characters has forced us to take shortcuts. Writing as if you are in the character’s head sure does influence the flavour of the writing. I couldn’t imagine writing to the rules, *especially* when you are writing fiction.

Hi Barbara.
Thanks :) I suppose there are certain businesses where you would want to keep things professional and formal — medical and legal material comes to mind. Though, half the time I don’t understand that jargon! LOL. It is freeing, isn’t it, to just write and not worry about this. If you do want it to be right, you can always hire a professional to check it. ;)

jannie funster June 10, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Yes, I AM aware of not ending on a preposition, except for this sentence I have written you to.

My biggest preposition problem is actually more of a pronunciation one, not so much the writing of.

There — blew that last sentence too!

The pronunciation of, as in slurring when wine is imbibed.

jannie funster´s last blog post ..What If Everything’s A Poem

Davina June 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm

LOL, Jannie
You’re one of a kind, woman. I’m giggling out loud while reading your comment. Ending the sentences with a preposition is tickling to the funny bone, you know? Nice to see you :-) Cheers! *raises a glass of red*

Jannie Funster June 10, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Great to see you too! And apologies for being pretty silly on a post that is of a more serious nature, serious grammar.

And I actually do take a shine to good grammar. Drives me crazy when a grown person says something like “Did you save any beer for Bob and I?” Object of a preposition, arrrrg.

Anyway, thanks for not deleting my above comment. And hopefully not this one either?! :)

Prost to your red. I had some white earlier! And some Lindt milk chocolate with almond bits in it. And ceasar salad. heaven!! :)

Jannie Funster´s last blog post ..What If Everything’s A Poem

Davina June 11, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Oh Jannie… there’s no need to apologize! :-)

I love your sense of humour and there is *no* way I would ever delete your comment. That would be blasphemy! Heheh… “Beer” and “Bob and I” in the same sentence? Kinda doesn’t work, does it? :) I love Lindt milk chocolate with almonds… and Caesar salad, too; the more garlicky the better.

Robin June 13, 2011 at 5:59 am

Oh dear – prepoWHAT? Afraid I know nothin about them – I remember learning in a course for teaching English as a second language that however we used the language naturally was the right way – or something like that.
Robin´s last blog post ..Introducing Rendezvox

Davina June 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Hi Robin.
Yay… nice to see you making the blogging rounds again. :) I think more and more folk are going with natural expression these days… thanks to social media. It will be nice to be reading more of your writing now that you’ve started a new blog. Congrats!

James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil June 24, 2011 at 5:06 am

Of course we could say, “Is that her favorite writing pen?” Sometimes it’s fun to follow the rules in a way that doesn’t make you sound like you’re from the 18th or 19th centuries. :)
James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil´s last blog post ..The Cruel Truth About Fat

Davina July 4, 2011 at 9:02 am

Hi James.
That’s another good suggestion. I love how many different ways we can write something. I agree with you completely! There are ways around this :)

James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil July 4, 2011 at 9:07 am

It’s a lot better than the alleged quote from Winston Churchill, “This is nonsense up with which we will not put!”

You are correct, there are many ways to express anything without sounding silly. I think it’s called “writing ability”?

Steve S. July 4, 2011 at 6:09 pm

There’s nothing especially “modern” about sentences with prepositional endings. Bill the Bard (1564-1616) had no problem saying, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”

It’s a phony rule made up by grammar scolds who thought English should use the same rules as Latin. It’s never been followed by real writers.

James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil July 5, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I don’t think so, Steve. Grammar rules were created not only for style but so people from different areas speaking the same language could be understood. Ignoring established conventions is what least to quotes like this other one, again from Winston Churchill. “The Americans and the British. Two peoples separated by a common language.” Sit Winston did have a way with a phrase, didn’t he?
James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil´s last blog post ..The Cruel Truth About Fat

Davina July 5, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Lol, James.
Yes, writing ability; some have a knack for writing silly when the need calls for it, too. It creates a good impact when done with skill. Obviously the same goes for writing in other voices.

My biggest challenge is to write humour. What’s interesting is that I have a great sense of humour offline, but to translate that to writing? A different ballgame entirely. What is your preference when you write?

Hi Steve.
That is true. I think this kind of writing tends to be more conversational than focused on grammar. I’m seeing it more often after having spent years online. Writing styles, especially on Twitter and Facebook, lend a more personal informal flavour.

I appreciate following the rules, when it’s to satisfy a client. Even then, it’s sometimes necessary to highlight bad grammar if it’s hurting their message. In most cases, folk appreciate it. Putting all rules aside, this informal type of writing creates a neat tone; great for illustrating a character’s personality.

And as for these quotes, when they’re written this way they have a way of catching your attention!

That’s a good point about grammar rules. It gives folk a foundation on which to learn a language. Breaking the rules, artistically, is satisfying :) If you don’t know the rules in the first place… you lose!

James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil July 6, 2011 at 5:27 am

Aha! I am not the only person who has difficulty writing humor. Like you, in person, I can be somewhat witty enough to make people laugh. Writing, is a “whole ‘nother story”. Maybe part of my problem is I tend to write with a bit too much attention to the rules. Those can seriously hamper efforts to be funny.

I have a little success if I keep it low-key and use what are called “throw away lines” by my characters. Even then, I suspect they either fall flat or are unnoticed by readers. If I only didn’t have this compulsion to write. As Robert Heinlein said in one of his books. Writers don’t write because they like it. They write because they have to. Maybe it’s a mental flaw?
James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil´s last blog post ..Does It Matter if Jesus Existed?

Robyn July 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Never end a sentence with a preposition. That, my friends, is arrant nonsense, up with which I will not put.

Davina July 8, 2011 at 8:39 am

Hi James.
That’s true. We can create a funny impact when we go against the rules, and even more so when we make it obvious. I tried to write humour in a few posts last year: Dial-1-2-1-Muse and 9 Animal Totem Cards for Your Muse… meh :) I’m funnier when I’m playing off what other folk have said; it’s a group effort. Lol, writers are mentally flawed? Um… :-)

Hi Robyn.
Lol. Oooh, attitude! ;-)

Robyn July 8, 2011 at 9:34 am

When computer grammar checkers first came out, I always used this sentence–which is grammatically correct–to test them:

“The girl the boy the dog bit hit cried.”

Back in the days of CP/M and the DOS, most programs simply crashed.

Davina July 9, 2011 at 11:40 am

Robyn this crashes my system!
I would edit this, but I don’t understand the meaning enough TO rewrite :) I’ve never seen this example before. I hope you come back to explain the meaning.

Steve S. July 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm

“The girl the boy the dog bit hit cried.”

Thanks for posting this one, Robyn!

This is a variation of an old classic, which would be following the rules of grammar if English were structured like a computer programming language. Let’s start with the basic sentence:

“The girl cried.”

I hope nobody has any problem with that one.

Suppose there was a boy who hit the girl, making her cry, and we want to make it clear which girl was crying. (There are several girls on the playground, and only one was crying.) Let’s review subordinate clauses.

“The girl wore a red dress.”

Let’s say we want to identify which girl wore the red dress. We could say something like:

“The girl that the boy hit wore a red dress.”

Or we can omit the relative pronoun:

“The girl the boy hit wore a red dress.”

Let’s go back to our original sentence:

“The girl cried.”

We could insert a subordinate clause immediately after our noun phrase, like so:

“The girl that the boy hit cried.”

Or we could leave out the coordinating conjunction:

“The girl the boy hit cried.”

Now it’s starting to get a little bit weird. But it gets really weird when we add another subordinate clause.

Which boy hit the girl? The was the boy that the dog bit. The boy the dog bit hit the girl. So if we insert the subordinate clause, “that the dog bit,” into our model sentence, we get:

“The girl the boy that the dog bit hit cried.”

And of course, we can remove the “that”:

“The girl the boy the dog bit hit cried.”

That’s the kind of sentence we would get if we applied the rules of English grammar the way we do those of computer programming languages.

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