COMMON ERRORS TO AVOID
Prepositions are among the most overworked words in the English language. Use the following guidelines to avoid committing two of the more common errors.
1) Avoid putting unnecessary prepositions at the end of sentences.
Incorrect: Where are the boys at?
Correct: Where are the boys?
Incorrect: Can I go with?
Correct: Can I go? or Can I go with you?
Incorrect: Where did that cat get to?
Correct: Where is the cat?
2) In formal writing and business communications, avoid putting the preposition at the end of a sentence.
Rewrite the sentence so that it has a correct prepositional phrase.
Avoid: They were not sure which city they were going to.
Better: They were not sure to which city they were going. (The preposition is now part of the phrase to which city.)
Avoid: Ask not whom the bell tolls for.
Better: Ask not for whom the bell tollm the� Z n n 0`� @�� r separate parts.
3) Verb + particle + noun phrase
ç With some two-word verbs (verb + preposition), the noun phrase goes after the particle.
- I’m afraid that Simon met with an accident as he was driving home.
- The back door opens onto a small garden.
ç With other two-word verbs (verb + adverb), a noun phrase usually goes after the particle unless the noun phrase is a pronoun.
- She followed out the instructions exactly. (rather than …followed the instructions out…)
- She read the instructions and followed them out precisely. (not …followed out them…)
4) Verb + noun phrase + particle
With a few two-word verbs (verb + adverb), a noun phrase is usually placed or must be placed before the particle.
- She told the children off for stealing her apple. (rather than …told off the children…)
- Don’t forget to pull the door to when you go out. (not …pull to the door…)
5) Verb + particle + noun phrase or verb + noun phrase + particle
ç With some two-word verbs (verb + adverb), a noun phrase can go either before the particle or after it.
- Buying the new car has eaten up all my savings. or
- Buying the new car has eaten all my savings up.
NOTE 1: We use verb + noun phrase + particle when the noun phrase is a pronoun.
- Pam had to get rid of her car, and she sold it off at a very low price. (not …sold off it…)
- I won’t be able to go to the party. You’ll have to count me out. (not …count out me.)
NOTE 2: We prefer verb + particle + noun phrase when the noun phrase is long.
- She had to clean the kitchen up. (or …clean up the kitchen.)
- She had to clean up the mess on the kitchen floor. (rather than …clean the mess …up.)
6) Verb + adverb + preposition + noun phrase
ç With most three-word verbs, the noun phrase goes after the preposition.
- The government is to cut back on spending on the armed forces.
- He really looks up to his older brother.
ç However, a few three-word verbs have the noun phrase immediately after the verb. A second noun phrase will go after the preposition.
- I helped Lucy on with her coat. (= help her to put it on)
- She tried to talk me out of the plan. (= persuade not to do it)