Time for a quick review of the English prepositions (3)

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Jose A. Carillo

Jose A. Carillo

Last week, in our review of the prepositions of direction, I said that the compound locational prepositions “onto” and “into” always convey the consummation of an action, while the simple locational prepositions “on” and “in” indicate the subject’s end-position as a result of that action.

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These examples clearly show this:

Consummation of an action: “The boy fell onto the ground.” “The woman dived into the pool.”
The subject’s end-position: “The boy is on the ground.” “The woman is in the pool.”

As a rule of thumb then, the directional prepositions “onto” and “into” serve to convey the idea of cause, while the locational prepositions “on” and “in” serve to convey the idea of effect.

The least specific of the prepositions for space orientation is “at.” It works in two ways: (a) to mark a verb of motion directed towards a point, as in “The marksman aimed at the hostage-taker with precision”; and (b) to indicate direction, as in “The guard leaped at the pickpocket to stop him.”

Let’s now move on to the prepositions that establish relationships in time.

The prepositions for specific points in time: “on,” “at,” “in,” and “after”:

“On” is used with the days of the week: “We are going out on Monday.”

“On” is used for specific dates (optional in informal usage): “The trade fair will start on March 12, 2003 [on March 12, on the 12th of March].”

“At” is used with clocked time: “She comes to work promptly at 8:30 a.m.”

“At” is used with these times of the day: “noon,” “night,” “midnight,” “sunrise,” “sunset”: “We sail for Palawan at noon.”

“At” is used with certain major holidays (without the word “Day”) as points of time: “The family always gets together at Christmas.”

“In” is used with these times of the day: “morning,” “afternoon,” “evening”: “She waters her roses in the morning.”

“In” is used with dates that don’t carry the specific day: “Magellan reached the Philippines in March 1521.”
“In” is used with months, years, decades, and centuries as points of time: “Rizal was born in June [in 1861, in the 1860s].”

“In” is used with the seasons as points of time: “He promised not to leave her in winter.”

“After” is used with events that happen later than another event or point of time: “The overseas worker came home only after New Year’s Eve.”

The prepositions for periods or extended time: “since,” “for,” “by,” “from…to,” “from…until,” “during,” “within,” “between,” and “beyond”:

“Since” is used with an event that happens at some time or continuously after another time: “She has been writing poetry since her teens.”

“For” is used with particular durations: “Our President went to Viet Nam for a two-day state visit.”

“By” is used with an act completed or to be completed by a certain time: “She expects to finish her dissertation by yearend.”

“From…to” is used to refer to the beginning and end of an activity or event: “The weather will be stormy from today to Monday.”

“From…until” is used to refer to the beginning of one period to the beginning of another: “They traveled from March until October.”

“During” is used to refer to a period of time in which an event happens or an activity is done: “We toured Vigan during the semestral break.”

“Between” is used to refer to an action taking place between the beginning and the end of a period: “The debate lasted between 9:00 a.m. and 12 noon.”

“Within” is used to refer to an action that must take place or be completed within a given period: “You must leave within the day.”

“Beyond” is used to refer to a period of time after a particular event has taken place or a particular time has elapsed: “Beyond October all hostilities stopped.”

This ends our review of the prepositions.

Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, http://josecarilloforum.com. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me at Twitter.com @J8Carillo. E-mail: j8carillo@yahoo.com

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1 Comment

  1. Emphasize in your Forum, most of the Filipinos usually make mistakes in using:
    “One of the single” instead of using, “one of the plural”. Not only engineers but even lawyers are used to do that. It is annoying to the ears.