Last week we introduced prepositions. There’s more to them. Click here to read the first post of this series and about simple prepositions.
To recap, there are three types of prepositions:
- simple prepositions
- marginal prepositions
- compound prepositions
Marginal prepositions act like prepositions but derive from other classes, primarily verb forms. Here is a list of these forms:
barring considering concerning pending given granted
Let’s move on to the third type: compound prepositions. They come in two varieties: (1) two-word prepositions, and (2) three-word prepositions. The two-word includes pursuant to, according to, because of, etc. The three-word includes with respect to, in regard to, in accordance with, etc.
Compound prepositions can get a bit fuzzy, which is why we should avoid them unless the concrete meanings fail to capture what we’re trying to convey. Henry Fowler had a few words on compound prepositions:
Taken as a whole, [compound prepositions] are almost the worst element in modern English, stuffing up what is written with a compost of nouny abstractions. To young writers the discovery of these forms of speech, which are used very little in talk and very much in print…
We are going to trail off the quote from there because the rest isn’t important here. But, Fowler had a point and writers have succumbed to this depth of insanity with compound prepositions. They are so easy to use, but need to be avoided. My favorite (not really!) is in regard to. When I see this popping up in manuscripts, I immediately highlight it with a note: please consider revising with another word. It’s okay to use it once, maybe twice. More than that, just no.
Here’s a list of compound prepositions with their simples next to them that are used the most:
by means of by
during the course of during
for the reason that because
in order to to
in relation to about, concerning
with regard to about, concerning
with reference to about, concerning
prior to before
Next week: Prepositional phrases.