Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Write Them Down In Five Sentences

I was walking around school the other day and I heard someone say, "Write down your answers at for least five sentences." This is yet another manifestation of the confusion between for and to (I think I've blogged about something similar before. I must check my archives! I'm forgetting what I've blogged about!). Thing is, prepositions are really quite tricky. Most of the time, the rules that govern them are just born out of usage and not much logic. The best way to deal with prepositions is to memorize how they are used which is very unpleasant, if you ask me.

For is a difficult preposition because it has so many uses. We use it to indicate ownership ("I bought that for you"), direction ("I'm heading for school in a bit"), some kind of goal ("I've been waiting for this chance"), some kind of character ("For someone who works so hard, she doesn't look stressed"). It's really quite confusing! One thing that for does not do, however, is it does not indicate boundaries. That is what in does.

In several previous posts, I've mentioned that in is used to talk about something being surrounded by something. In other words, whatever is in something is surrounded; it's bounded by something ("in school," "in the office," "in my bag"). Similarly, on non-physical levels, there are boundaries as well: someone is "in pain" (the person feels surrounded by pain), "in doubt," "in anger." In the sentence mentioned above, in is the correct preposition to use because whatever needs to be written, is bounded by five sentences. The sentences then serve as the boundary for the idea that needs to be expressed. Hence, "Write your answers in at least five sentences."

By the way, this blog is almost a year old and I'd like to start another one. It will also be an English or language related blog, I'm just not sure what I want it to contain as of yet. Any suggestions?

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