Language is fun#
Playing around with language is a lot of fun; it’s so incredibly flexible. We have many ways of saying the same thing with nuanced meanings using words that are seemingly synonymous. Even the syntax of language tolerates various twists and convolutions that make it a lot of hard work to achieve fluency in any non-native tongue.
English isn’t unique with regard to these things, but it’s my native language and it’s what I know. Let’s see what we can come up with.
What are prepositions?#
According to Merriam Webster :
A preposition is a word—and almost always a very small, very common word—that shows direction (to in “a letter to you”), location (at in “at the door”), or time (by in “by noon”), or that introduces an object (of in “a basket of apples”). Prepositions are typically followed by an object, which can be a noun (noon), a noun phrase (the door), or a pronoun (you).
The fun comes when combining prepositions with verbs into prepositional verbs. When you do this a verb, which can already have varied meanings, can take on a life of its own and have wildly different connotations depending on the preposition accompanying it. I know from my (admittedly shallow) study of Greek, that English isn’t alone here.
Most considerations of prepositional verbs tend to list the prepositions and pair various verbs. I prefer the reverse; it’s more fun.
Fun with ‘Sit’#
The verb sit, for instance, can have a couple of different meanings; from perching on a chair to joining a committee, but those nuances pale in comparison to what happens when prepositions are involved.
- on: “sit on” - this is equivalent to the conventional meaning
- with: “sit with” - patiently attending a bedside
- around: “sit around” - lazily avoiding useful work
- down: “sit down” - a command to take a seat
- up: “sit up” - an order to straighten your back while sitting
- over: “sit over” - have authority over a group
- under: “sit under” - listen the teaching of a great teacher
Fun with ‘look’#
The verb look can also take on many meaning depending on which preposition it’s paired with.
- at: “look at” - pay direct attention to something
- for: “look for” - try to find something lost
- in: “look in” - open a space to peer inside
- to: “look to” - wait for guidance from an individual
- about: “look about” - gaze all around yourself
- after: “look after” - take care of a child
- along: “look along” - check a board to see if it’s straight
- behind: “look behind” - imitate Lot’s wife
- down: “look down on” - think yourself better than another
- into: “look into” - find out the truth about something
- like: “look like” - resemble someone or something
- out of: “look out of” - see the world from a window
- out for: “look out for” - make sure someone is ok
- over: “look over” - ignore someone
- up: “look up” - find out where a person resides
- within: “look within” - contemplate your own motivations
See what I mean?#
I know; I’m such a geek! I really think that language, with all its crazy twists and unexpected turns is a gift from God for our (and his) enjoyment. After all, he communicated with his image bearers using language; first Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and now just about every language on the face of the earth. And we human beings, being like him, use language to know and be known.
This brief look at prepositions is just a scratch on the surface of the wonder of human language. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
List of common Prepositions#
AT BY FOR FROM IN OF ON TO WITH ABOUT ABOVE ACROSS AFTER AGAINST ALONG AMONG AROUND BECAUSE OF BEFORE BEHIND BELOW BENEATH BESIDE BETWEEN CLOSE TO DOWN DURING EXCEPT INSIDE INSTEAD OF INTO LIKE NEAR OFF ON TOP OF ONTO OUT OF OUTSIDE OVER PAST SINCE THROUGH TOWARD UNDER UNTIL UP UPON WITHIN WITHOUT