Thursday, July 11, 2013

Top 20 Grammar Errors: wrong or missing preposition

In researching today’s grammar error number seven, wrong or missing prepositions, I decided I wanted a list of all of the English language prepositions.

How many do you think there are? I tried to list them and came up with the following:

·         about                       
·         above
·         across
·         after
·         along
·         at
·         before
·         behind
·         beneath
·         beside
·         by
·         down
·         for
·         from
·         in
·         into
·         of
·         on
·         onto
·         to
·         under
·         with

And the ABC Schoolhouse Rocks video that I remember as a kid listed ten prepositions.
So if I came up with 22 prepositions and still felt like I missed words from the list, and Schoolhouse Rock listed 10 that did “most of the work,” then how many prepositions are there?

There were some I didn’t know the meaning of until I looked up. For instance:

·         apud: Latin for “at the house of,” but mainly used in academic writing meaning “in the writings of”

·         athwart: from side to side of (which I’m still not sure what that means); across; possibly to obstruct as in “Peruse the Stars that shoot athwart the Night” (From The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope). And you know, I’ve read The Rape of the Lock, which is absolutely hilarious, but don’t remember the use of that particular preposition.

·         Modulo: seriously, this preposition has to specifically do with number theory. I see the definition, I still don’t understand it.  The example sentence: “19 and 64 are congruent modulo 5.” Seriously, what does that mean?

Point is, way more prepositions than I thought.  You can get the complete list here.
All of these words are small, tiny things. They get thrown around in speech maybe a bit too freely, which is okay because speech is a sloppy thing. No time for editing and you have all those pesky dialects. No one writes, “I warsh my clothes on a Kenmore warsher. “I’ve heard my mom say it though, and I’ve heard a lot of people from my home locale say similar phrases.

But please don’t write it. It’s wrong. It should be:

I warsh my clothes in a Kenmore warsher.

Speech and writing are different beasts. The difference in spoken language between at and with may be negligible, but in writing the shades of meaning make a huge difference. For example:

I tossed the ball at my brother.

I tossed the ball with my brother.

I tossed the ball to my brother.

In the first sentence, I tried to lob the ball as hard as I could at my brother’s head, hoping to see blood. In the second sentence, my brother and I both had a hold of the ball and threw it together. In the third sentence, I threw the ball toward my brother in hopes that he’d catch it.
So how do you fix this problem? How do you catch it? This my tip:

1.      Go here. (I will from now on)
2.      Circle all the prepositional words in your writing
3.      Check the meaning of each prepositional word you’ve circled
4.      Rinse, repeat.


Steve Bargdill is the author of The Wasteland Series available on Amazon. He’s written for several newspapers and is currently a first year English graduate student at the University of Wyoming. You can read his short stories for free on Wattpad.

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