Prepositions

(i) Circumlocutory prepositions.

Certain phrases are overworked as general-purpose prepositions. Among them are:

As regards
As to
In connexion with
In regard to
In relation to
In respect of
In the case of
Relative to
With reference to
With regard to

They are useful in their proper places, but they are generally found outside their proper places, serving merely as clumsy devices to save a writer the labour of selecting the right preposition. I reproduce here a collection that I made for Plain Words with one or two additions. The right preposition is added in brackets:

A firm time-table in relation to the works to be undertaken should be drawn up (for).

It has been necessary to cause many dwellings to be disinfested of vermin, particularly in respect of the common bed-bug (of).

The general attitude of modern industry in relation to the activities of the Government (towards).

More progress has been made in the case of the Southern Railway and the Great Western Railway than in the case of the other two Companies (by).

A lease was entered into in respect of six floors of a building (of).

The Authority are fully conscious of their responsibilities in regard to the preservation of amenities (for).

It will be necessary to decide the priority which should be given to nursery provision in relation to other forms of education provision (over).

The rates vary in relation to the age of the child (with).

Coupons without restrictions as to how you should spend (on).

There may be difficulties with regard to the provision of suitable staff (in).

Similar considerations apply with regard to application for a certificate (to).

The best possible estimate will be made at the conference as to the total number of houses which can be completed in each district during the year (of).

For further comments on in regard to, see Position (Noun).

(ii) Prepositions tacked on to verbs. See Phrasal Verbs.

(iii) Ending sentences with prepositions.

Do not hesitate to end a sentence with a preposition if your ear tells you that that is where the preposition goes best. There used to be a rather half-hearted grammarian's rule against doing this, but no good writer ever heeded it, except Dryden, who seems to have invented it. The translators of the Authorised Version did not know it ("but I have a baptism to be baptised with"). The very rule itself, if phrased "do not use a preposition to end a sentence with", has a smoother flow and a more idiomatic ring than "do not use a preposition with which to end a sentence". Sometimes, when the final word is really a verbal particle, and the verb's meaning depends on it, the two cannot be separated. "A disturbance which half-a-dozen policemen sufficed to put down" cannot be written "a disturbance down which half-a-dozen policemen sufficed to put". The ear is a pretty safe guide. Nearly a hundred years ago Dean Alford protested against this so-called rule. "I know", he said, "that I am at variance with the rules taught at very respectable institutions for enabling young ladies to talk unlike their elders. But that I cannot help".

(iv) Cannibalism by prepositions.

Cannibalism is the name given by Fowler to a vice that prepositions are specially prone to, though it may infect any part of speech. One of a pair of words swallows the other:

Any articles for which export licences are held or for which licences have been applied.

The writer meant "or for which export licences have been applied for", but the first for has swallowed the second.

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