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How to Write Clear, Readable, Effective Sentences that Readers Love!
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PREPOSITIONS : What is a preposition? : Words followed by special prepositions : Examples of using prepositions : Common prepositions : Errors in using prepositions

Common Errors in Using Prepositions

Common Errors in Using Prepositions Five common errors may arise in using prepositions or prepositional phrases.

1) The object of a preposition in the objective case is misused.

A writer might forget about this rule. No one thinks of saying, "Give this to he." It is easy to see that the preposition affects the pronoun. Notice the following:

Wrong— Who should I give this to?
Right— Whom should I give this to?

Wrong— He gave candy to Mary and I.
Right— He gave candy to Mary and me.

In the first sentence, the preposition and the pronoun are separated by four intervening words, in the second by two words — enough to cause error through carelessness.

2) The wrong preposition is used.


We have a different meaning between He fell in the water and He fell into the water.

We must be out of the water first before we can fall into it; we may fall in the water after wading in.

Strictly speaking, Come in the house means "Put the house around you and come."

Come into the house
is what a motherwould say to her son as she calls from the window. Yet she may say Come in, now.


We divide fruit between David and Tom; we distribute fruit among David, Tom, Lou, and the rest.

EX.— It is incorrect to say of a fence that "We painted the pickets between each post. We should say We painted the pickets between the posts.


EX.— At church Brian sits beside his wife.

EX.— There may be others besides these two in the family pew.

Beside means next to;either beside or besides means in addition to.


The careful writer will not say I got this off Jenny,. He will say, I got this of Jenny or I got this from Jenny.


After the word different, use the word from.

Wrong— One tree is different than another.

Right— One tree is different from another.

3) Prepositions are used needlessly.

Wrong— I don't remember of seeing it.

Right— I don't remember seeing it.

4) Prepositional phrases are sometimes carelessly placed.

In a student's essay occurs this sentence:

Wrong— Where are you living at? Where are you going to?

Right— Where are you living? Where are you going?

EX.— Lincoln wrote his speech while riding to Gettysburg on a scrap of brown paper. Mr. Roosevelt was shot in the middle of his campaign.

The sentences read better if we properly connect them: Lincoln wrote his speech on a scrap of brown paper, while riding to Gettysburg, and In the middle of his campaign, Mr. Roosevelt was shot.

5. Across, until, and till are commonly misspelled.

Take a long look at these simple words. Notice that "across" has one c and not two c's. Spell this word fifty times. Write it fifty times. Make up your mind never to misspell it again. Then notice the difference between till and until. The two words mean the same, but till and the last syllable of until are not spelled alike.

Misc. Errors in Using Prepositions

Do not omit a preposition if it makes the sentence grammatically correct or adds clearness or emphasis.

For example, it is incorrect to say, "Any size envelope will fit the letter." Instead say, "An envelope of any size will fit the letter."

It is also poor usage to say, "It is no use," "It is no avail" "It is no consequence," etc. It is better to say: "It is of no use," " It is of no avail," "It is of no consequence," etc.

Do not say, "Where is the car at?" or "Why did you do it for?" In both cases you can omit at and for to add clearness.

Another incorrect expression (especially in speech) is off of, such as: "The copy of the book fell off of the table." Here you should omit the word of. Also in such sentences as: "I do not remember of his mailing the letter," the word of is incorrect. It is correct to say, "I do not remember his mailing the letter."

Do NOT use the word of to take the place of have in such expressions as: could of, would of, should of, might of, may of, had of, and must of. The correct expressions are: could have, would have, should have, might have, may have, had, and must have.

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PREPOSITIONS : What is a preposition? : Words followed by special prepositions : Examples of using prepositions : Common prepositions : Errors in using prepositions