5.1. Defining the functional series 

The preposition is a functional series of words. Prepositions relate nouns (or noun equivalents, such as pronouns or gerund forms) to other sentence elements (such as verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs):
a. a letter written in ink (verb – preposition - noun)
b. a book of verse (noun – preposition - noun)
c. a basked full of fruit (adjective – preposition - noun)
d. Her arrival caught him completely unaware of the impeding trouble. (adverb – preposition - noun)

Morphologically, prepositions may be single words (on, at) or combination of words (noun + preposition + noun – e.g. in front of; noun + preposition – e.g. thanks to; conjunction + preposition – e.g. because of; adjective + preposition – e.g. due to).

5.2. Prepositional phrases

Prepositions do not function in isolation. They are commonly followed by a noun (or a noun equivalent) functioning as prepositional complement. The two items (preposition + complement) constitute a prepositional phrase (the preposition is the head word of the phrase). Prepositional phrases can be modified by adverbs of degree or measure:
e.g. They arrived just before lunch.

Normally the preposition and its complement stand in a contact position. In some types of clause, however, the complement has to take the first structural position:

a. Direct special questions:e.g. What are you talking about?

b. Indirect special questions: e.g. I don’t know what you are talking about

c. Prepositional finite passive structures: e.g. His promotion was very much talked about

d. Prepositional non-finite passive structures: He hated to be taken care of by his children.

In some sentences one and the same complement is associated with two different prepositions but is used only after the second preposition: e.g. There were books on and under the desk.

5.3. Prepositional Meanings

In most of their functions prepositions have a lexical meaning of their own and are the primary realization of the meaning of the prepositional phrases. Prepositions express circumstantial meanings. In this book we adapt presentation of prepositional meanings:

Locative meaning:

1. Position – the choice of preposition depends on the dimensional properties of the noun referent:
e.g. The child is at his desk. (one-dimensional location)
e.g. The book is on the desk. (two-dimensional location)
e.g. The paper is in the drawer. (three-dimensional location)

2. Direction
e.g. Come to the blackboard.
e.g. He came into the room.
e.g. His name got on the list of candidates.

3. Destination - e.g. I dashed behind the bush.

4. Passage – e.g. Tom felt a desire to jump over the creek

5. Orientation – e.g. the village beyond the fields

6. Pervasive meaning – e.g. Books were scattered all over the place.

Temporal meaning:
e.g. at 3 o’clock
in September, in 1988
on September, 10th
from 5 till 9

Cause - purpose:
e.g. I am doing it out of duty.
e.g. I wouldn’t do it for love or money.

e.g. He bought flowers for his wife.
He sent  flowers to his wife.

Instrument – e.g. He opened the tin with a knife

Means – e.g. I go to work by bus.

Ingredient, material - e.g. made of clay, made with milk, filled with brandy

Standard or respect – e.g. He’s not bad for a beginner.; He’s good at English.

Many prepositions can express more than one type of circumstance. In phrases with such preposition the semantic interpretation is provided by the prepositional complement or the general context: e.g. on the table (place); on Saturday (temporal).

5.4. Grammaticalized Prepositions

The prepositions of, by, to and for may be used to express grammatical relations:
e.g. She was the wife of a miner. (status)
e.g. They were painted by Picasso. (agent)
e.g. I sent a fax to the manager. (the noun denoting the Recipient was postponed after the noun denoting the Affected).
e.g. It was impossible for me to believe it. (used to introduce the Agent of an action denoted by the infinitive).

In such cases the prepositions are said to be grammaticalized.

5.5. Choice of Prepositions

The choice of prepositions depends on various factors:

1. The lexical meaning of the preposition:
e.g. The bag is on the chair.
e.g. The bag is under the chair.

2. The governing word (the lexical meaning of the preposition is weakened):
e.g. covered with snow; tired of reading; surprised at her behavior)

3. The prepositional complement (the preposition and its complement are treated as a set phrase): e.g. in the evening; by day; at night

5.6. Prepositions and adverb particles

Circumstances can be expressed by prepositional phrases and by adverbs. Within the class of adverbs there is a small group of words denoting locative circumstances (position and direction) and temporal circumstances (position): in, out, on, off, up, down, above, below, before, after. These words are known as adverb particles. They have no function independent of verbs.

Adverb particles coincide formally with prepositions. As a matter of fact, adverb particles in some structures can be interpreted as abbreviated prepositional phrases expressing locative or temporal circumstances. The missing prepositional complement is recoverable from the context:
e.g. I took the dog out. (= out of the house)
e.g. We have met before. (= before this meeting)

Often the function of the particle is to change the aspective meaning of the verbal lexeme: eat – eat up.
Some phrasal verbs have literal meaning: e.g. I have to send out some documents.
Other phrasal verbs have idiomatic meanings:
e.g. Don’t let me down!; The lights went out.

Our presentation focusses on the differences between particles and prepositions reflected in the structure of phrasal verbs:

1. Particles may combine with intransitive verbs: e.g. I woke up at 6 in the morning.

2. Particles may combine with transitive verbs, too: e.g. I woke up the child at 7 o’clock.
- When the object is expressed by means of a noun, particles may stand before or after the object: e.g. I woke up the child.; I woke the child up.
- When the object is expressed by means of a pronoun, particles may stand only after the object: e.g. I woke him up

3. Prepositions always stand before their complements to constitute prepositional phrases. Such phrases function as prepositional object: e.g. She was looking at the picture.
e.g. She was looking at the picture.

4. A direct object can be inserted between the transitive verb and the prepositional object:
e.g. The instructor put me off driving.

5. A phrasal verb with a particle can combine with a prepositional object
e.g. I fell back on that money.

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