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The problem of prepositions Options
TheParser
Posted: Sunday, May 21, 2017 7:29:02 AM
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NOT A TEACHER


Dear Fellow Learners:

As you have already learned, prepositions can pose a problem to learners and even native speakers.

As one scholar put it, prepositions are not actually part of grammar. They are based on idiom. That is to say, the "correct" preposition depends on what a majority of the people in a particular country (or part of a country) says is "correct."

1. In California, we say, "Mona is waiting in line."



2. In New York, they say, "Raul is waiting on line."


Why the difference? I do not know.


This morning I was jarred (slightly shocked) when I read this sentence in a British magazine about the upcoming British election:

"One [political] poll had Theresa May on 61 per cent ... and [Jeremy] Corbyn on 26 per cent."

As many of you may already know, Americans would use at.




Have a nice day and a great new week. (I know that many of you are eager to get back to your school or job.)
TheParser
Posted: Saturday, May 27, 2017 8:03:14 AM
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No. 2


To: Students of American English



Betty calls Mona's home: May I speak with Mona, please?

Mona's mother: I'm sorry, but she's not here. She's still at school.

Betty: Do you have any idea when she'll be home?

Mona's mother: Well, school ends every day at 3 p.m., so she should be here by 3:30.

Betty: I'll call back then. Thank you.


*****


Mrs. Jones: My daughter is a dentist.

Mrs. Smith: My daughter is a journalist.

Mrs. Anderson: My daughter is an architect.

Mrs. Miller: My daughter is still in school. ( = She's still a student.) When she is graduates (is graduated) next year, she will become a lawyer.
TheParser
Posted: Monday, May 29, 2017 5:16:37 AM
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No. 3


Ordinary, natural-sounding English:

"Can I ask you a question?"



Formal, elegant English:

"May I ask a question of you?"
tunaafi
Posted: Monday, May 29, 2017 5:24:05 AM

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TheParser wrote:

Formal, elegant English:

"May I ask a question of you?"

I think most native speakers of British English would consider that over-formal and outdated. I suggest that learners stick to the more natural "May I ask (you) a question?"
TheParser
Posted: Thursday, June 01, 2017 7:29:41 AM
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No. 4

The difference between "at" and "in."


*****

1. My first example comes from the title of a book.

"Memorial" refers to the name of a hospital in a certain American city. More than ten years ago, there was a very bad storm (with much flooding) in that city. Many people went to Memorial for help with their medical problems.

Here is the title of Sheri Fink's book:

FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL: LIFE AND DEATH IN A STORM-RAVAGED HOSPITAL

a) She used "at" to indicate location.
b) She used "in" to stress what was happening in the interior of Memorial.


2. My second example also shows us the difference:

"Stephen asked me to lunch with him at his club. I had never before been in a gentlemen's club."
TheParser
Posted: Sunday, June 04, 2017 8:13:26 AM
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No. 5

Careful American speakers respect the difference between "compare TO" and "compare WITH."

1. Compare TO (X = Y)

a. "Shall I compare thee [you] to a summer's day?"

i. Shakespeare says you are like a day in the summer.


2. Compare WITH (Examining how two things are the same and are different)

a. "The company's production was up but its earnings were down compared with last year's [earnings]." (Source of this example: Theodore M. Bernstein's Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage, 1977)
Sanmayce
Posted: Sunday, June 04, 2017 8:50:45 AM

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Hi TheParser,
glad to see another parser on TFD.

Catching nuances is a fine ability which serves well when one wants to hit the point in a well-versed and short manner.
My English is forever buggy, but this troubles me not - at all.

You see, my obsession with prepositions is never ending, a few years ago I tried to make one strong starting point in shape of a booklet with one purpose in mind - to help users ... positioning the pre-positions, in-positions and post-positions:

3x46 PRE/IN/POST-positions listed

Hope you find it useful.

He learns not to learn and reverts to what all men pass by.
tunaafi
Posted: Sunday, June 04, 2017 9:17:13 AM

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Location: Karlín, Praha, Czech Republic
TheParser wrote:


Careful American speakers respect the difference between "compare TO" and "compare WITH."



The usage note on 'compare' in the American Heritage Dictionary (below) says that most writers accept both prepositions for both kinds of comparison.

Usage Note: A common rule of usage holds that compare to and compare with are not interchangeable. To implies "in the direction of" or "toward a target," and so comparing Miriam to a summer's day means treating the summer's day as a standard or paragon and noting that Miriam, though a different kind of entity, is similar in some ways to it. With implies "together" or "side by side," and so comparing the Senate version of the bill with the House version means treating them symmetrically, as two examples of the same kind of entity, and noting both the similarities and the differences. It's a subtle distinction, and most writers accept both prepositions for both kinds of comparison, though with a preference that aligns with the traditional rule. The 2014 Usage Survey presented He compared the runner to a gazelle, where the items are in different categories and the first is likened to the second; the Panelists found to more acceptable than with by a large margin (95 percent to 55 percent). The margin of acceptability was slimmer for a sentence about assessing the similarities and differences between two comparable items: The police compared the forged signature with the original. The acceptability of with was only slightly greater than that of to (84 percent to 76 percent), and with might have been even more acceptable had the sentence been about two forged signatures.

https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=compare&submit.x=22&submit.y=22
TheParser
Posted: Monday, June 05, 2017 8:22:21 AM
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Sanmayce wrote:


Hope you find it useful.



I certainly did.

Thank you, Sanmayce, for your kindness.



Have a nice day!
TheParser
Posted: Tuesday, June 06, 2017 9:10:15 AM
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I accidentally posted information about prepositions in my thread entitled "My EXPRESSION of the day" thread.

Please go there and read No. 6 if you want to know about "different from" vs. "different than."


Sorry!
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, June 06, 2017 9:11:31 AM

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I didn't notice!
No problem!

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
TheParser
Posted: Tuesday, June 06, 2017 9:30:58 AM
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Drag0nspeaker wrote:

No problem!



Thanks!
FROSTY X RIME
Posted: Tuesday, June 06, 2017 10:02:24 AM

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tunaafi wrote:
TheParser wrote:

Formal, elegant English:

"May I ask a question of you?"

I think most native speakers of British English would consider that over-formal and outdated. I suggest that learners stick to the more natural "May I ask (you) a question?"


It may be antiquated and over-formal but in some cases, the formation is very useful as follows:

"Do you like an apple?" asked Adam of Eve.

It would be less precise or a little confusing or sounds awkward or perhaps even wrong to say the following instead:

"Do you like an apple?" asked Adam Eve.

You can argue that you can say thus instead:

Adam asked Eve, "Do you like an apple?"

But, we sometimes want to say things differently rather than have only one way to say things.

I strongly believe things should not be binned or treated disrespectfully or disdained because of their old age only. Old things can be brought back into use if necessary.

What should be shall be-The fellowship of the ring-
TheParser
Posted: Wednesday, June 07, 2017 7:24:57 AM
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FROSTY X RIME wrote:


I strongly believe things should not be binned or treated disrespectfully or disdained because of their old age only. Old things can be brought back into use if necessary.




I am one of those people who agree with your statement.


Have a nice day!
TheParser
Posted: Saturday, June 10, 2017 10:46:13 AM
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No. 6


PLEASE do not imitate the growing number of Americans (young and old, educated or not) who say something like:


"This secret is just between you and I."

"Mona baked this cake for you and I."


Since you have studied English grammar at school, you know that after a preposition, one always (always!) uses the objective form of the pronoun:

"This secret is just between you and me."
"Mona baked this cake for you and me."
TheParser
Posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2017 9:08:43 AM
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No. 7


"Students should be respectful _____ their teachers."


What preposition should one use?

I am guessing that many Americans in 2017 would say "to."

It seems, however, that "of" is still preferred by many people.

As [it] always [is], the decision is yours. (I hope that you use "of.")

*****

One way to avoid the problem is to say, "Students should be respectful toward their teacher." ("Towards" in some other varieties of English.)
Audiendus
Posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2017 9:37:50 AM
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TheParser wrote:
"Students should be respectful _____ their teachers."


If the meaning is "respectful when speaking to their teachers", "of" is not specific enough. In that case I would use "to" or "toward(s)". Compare "polite to their teachers".
TheParser
Posted: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 8:07:53 AM
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Thanks for the helpful comments, Audiendus.


Have a nice day!
TheParser
Posted: Saturday, June 17, 2017 8:01:51 AM
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No. 8

"Would you please put the ham _____ the fridge (refrigerator)?"

Should we use "in" or "into" ?

One respected expert suggests "in," for we are thinking of the END of the movement.


*****

He says that we should use "into" when we are thinking of the movement ITSELF.

"The children keep jumping into the flowerbeds."




Source: Michael Swan, Practical English Usage.
TheParser
Posted: Monday, June 19, 2017 8:02:27 AM
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No. 9


More important info from Mr. Swan.


1. Made of (identifying the material used to make something): "Most things seem to be made of plastic these days."

2. Made out of (thinking about the process of manufacture): "They made all the furniture out of oak."

3. Made from (a material is changed into a completely different form): "Paper is made from wood."

4. Made with (to mention just one of the materials): "The soup is good." "Yes, I make it with lots of garlic."
TheParser
Posted: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 8:11:54 AM
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No. 10


1. Mona is looking out the window.

2. Mona is looking out of the window.


My books tell me:

a. Americans commonly (often) use sentence No. 1. They parse "out" as a preposition.

b. Americans also use No. 2.

c. If you decide to say a sentence like No. 1, remember: You MUST refer to some kind of opening (such as a window, a door, etc.).

d. This sentence is NOT acceptable:

"The children gathered [flowers] before they went out the wood[s] and returned home."

i. "The woods" does not refer to an opening.
ii. It is necessary to add "of" to that sentence.

****

If you do not want to take any chances, it might be safer to simply use sentence 2.





My main source: Quirk, et al., A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (1985).


Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 11:01:45 AM

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British speakers almost unanimously use sentence #2.

However, due to speed of speech (elision), one might in conversation hear it as "Mona's lookin' ou'ǝ window."

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
TheParser
Posted: Thursday, June 22, 2017 2:49:16 PM
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Joined: 9/21/2012
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Neurons: 19,838



Your comments were very helpful to me and, I am sure, my fellow learners.


Have a nice day!
TheParser
Posted: Monday, June 26, 2017 7:57:51 AM
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No. 11


1. Get your elbows off the table.

2. Get your elbows off of the table.


ALL American books on "good" English tell us:

a. No. 1 is standard usage.

b. No. 2 should be restricted to casual informal conversation. Do NOT use it formal speech and writing.

i. "of" is superfluous in "off of," for the "of" idea is built into the word "off."




*****

And NEVER imitate native speakers who say, "I got a loan off of my friend." It should be, of course, "I got a loan from my friend."





Sources: The Columbia Guide to Standard American English (1993); Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage (1977).
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