Tag Archives: Prepositions

Jumping off of a couple points

Two nations, divided by a common language. I’m not sure where Canada fits into that, and I’m not sure if what I’m about to describe is a North American thing, a Canadian one or just a new development in the great life of the language (in which case, shudder). Anyway, it’s wrong according to the grammar rules I was taught, and therefore worthy of a post.

The word “of” is a preposition. If you streamlined language to the extreme, it could probably go. We’ve already found one way to get rid of it in English which the French lack. We say Elmo’s Blog; they say The Blog of Elmo. But mercifully we haven’t got rid of of entirely. We just harbour some people who misuse it.

Couple needs of

It makes me grind my teeth when someone says “a couple [noun]”. Colloquially, “couple of” can be shortened, but the replacement is “coupla”, not “couple”. You can, of course, say “a couple” and stop: I think they are a couple or I’ll have a couple.

But couple + [noun] needs of in the middle. I’ll have a couple of those, for example.

Out needs of

Again, there are plenty of examples when out can be used without of. eg I’m going out.

But out + [noun] needs of in the middle. I’m looking out of the window or He jumped out of the car.

Off DOESN’T

I’m sorry if this is confusing. It doesn’t make any sense to me either, but it’s the rules (Addendum: An eagle-eyed reader has caught me at my own game there. Those (pl) are (pl) the rules (pl). Too right. Or “Them’s the rules if we’re being colloquial). The speed limits in this country don’t make any sense to me either, but if I break them, I expect to get a ticket. Well, consider this post to be the limit signs.

Although you jump out OF a car if you’re inside it, if you are for some crazy reason sitting on the roof, you jump off it. No of.

This one doesn’t suffer from the same exceptions as the two above. In fact, you can probably do a find/replace on your documents to nuke this. The only time I can imagine of legitimately following off without some punctuation in between is if off is being used in a compound noun, for example “The switching off of the lights”. And that’s a pretty weird bit of phrasing anyway!

 

5 Comments

Filed under Grammar Rules Simplified, Writing

Not a good thing to end on

Fellow grammar police will have noticed that my post “I Should’ve Known” ended with a preposition. My excuse in that case was that I wasn’t using it as a preposition, so it’s OK, but where do we stand on the rule that you should never end a sentence with a preposition?

In my view, this is one of those grammar rules which is neither absolute nor obsolete. A bit like the rule against starting a sentence with a conjunction, it is a useful rule of thumb and a good one to teach beginners. More often than not, a sentence which breaks one of these rules will read badly and should be fixed, but in both cases, there may be very good style reasons not to change it.

Take a sentence which involves the title of this piece: A preposition is not a good thing to end a sentence on. If we “correct” that, it becomes: A preposition is not a good thing on which to end a sentence. Neither version is unduly unwieldy and therefore I would be inclined to use the latter. However, if you’re writing a casual piece, this version can often seem unnatural and cumbersome and, these days, this rule is rarely followed.

If one is looking for publication, one must of course be guided by house style. Otherwise, I think it’s a matter for the writer’s discretion.  And the same goes for choosing a conjunction to start a sentence with. 😉

3 Comments

Filed under Grammar Rules Simplified, Writing