Get your preposition on!
- The dog sat on the mat.
- Magnus ate his dinner at the table.
- I looked in the cupboard but could not find the chocolate.
- Fern kept the coffee beside the machine for quick access.
Prepositions help the reader understand the position of the noun and the subject. When breaking up a sentence we look at how the noun and subject are interacting, for example:
- The cat sat on the mat.
The cat [subject] is sitting on the mat – the preposition indicates that the cat is doing something to the mat. The cat is focalised because it is acting out the verb.
- The mat is beneath the cat.
The mat is the subject of the sentence, which makes the reader’s attention focus on the mat and what it is doing beneath the cat. This can change the meaning of the sentence as different subjects are made the focus of the action. Look at the difference between these sentences, describing the same incident but using a variation of prepositions and verbs to change the subject and the noun:
- The plate landed in the King’s lap.
- The King’s lap caught the plate.
- Fergal sat his weary bones on the chair.
- Fergal nestled his weary bones in the chair.
- I stroked the cat behind her ears.
- The cat rubbed her ears against my hand.
The prepositions change the placement of subject and noun, as well as the action of the verb. Prepositions add precision to your writing – there is a difference between scratching the cat behind the ears or on the ears, and there is a difference between being in a chair or on a chair. I often sit at my desk on my chair, but I like to lay in my bed beneath the covers! This is quite different to sitting on my bed or beneath my desk!
What’s your favourite preposition?