Sunday, April 15, 2007

Confusing English preposition use …

English is my second language and the use of prepositions is one of the most confusing and somewhat annoying things of English language, at least to me. You say:

I want to do it this weekend (no preposition before “this weekend”)
You have time for yourself over a weekend. (“over” before “a weekend”)
You work in the weekends of April. (“in” before “the weekends”)

How confusing …. Would anyone here be able to explain which prepositions -- no-preposition, over, or in -- that I need to use with what types of conditions associated with “weekend”?

3 comments:

Paul TS Lee said...

When in doubt, try out the alternatives:

I want to do it this weekend.
I want to do it over a weekend.
I want to do it in the weekend.

You have time for yourself over a weekend.
You have time for yourself this weekend.
You have time for yourself in the weekend.

You work over the weekends of April.
You work these weekends [in] April.
You work in the weekends of April.

Aside from having to decline "this" into "these" and "a" into "the" for the "April" sentences, none of the recasting of prepositions appear to be grammatically incorrect to me. However, the meanings of the variations seem vastly different.

"This" seems more emphatic, and in certainly more definite than "over a/the", and "in the" implies that some unspecified but limited and singular time during the weekend, as opposed to a longer and multiple time units when "over a/the" is used.

Of course, this is just my reading of things, *and* I am also ESL (though my first language is in sad decline).


-Meteorplum

Anonymous said...

Prepositions are what kept me in business as a teacher of "English as a second language." Sadly, I don't think there is any other way, besides experience, to get to know them. I used to say that the trade off was that in English you don't have to memorize the genders of nouns. I'm not sure if that makes a difference in your case though. Does Japanese use gender?
-Nick

False Data said...

Japanese gets its revenge. It doesn't have gender, but it uses particles (word suffixes), counting words ("ten" changes depending on whether you're talking about pencil-shaped things, cup-shaped things, or what have you), and three alphabets (counting romanji) plus a potentially unlimited number of ideograms.