Monday, August 23, 2010

An ESL Guide, Part 4: Prepositions

Prepositions are hard for ESL learners for at least four reasons:
  1. Prepositions such as from, of, in, and on have so many meanings—senses might be a better word—more than the best dictionary is likely to cover.
  2. Native speakers even disagree on the use of some prepositions. For instance, a lot of New Yorkers wait on line, while the rest of the country waits in line. Some people prefer to be called on a telephone number, while most others favor being called at a number.
  3. Some preposition usage just makes no sense. We’ll say we’re in the car but on the bus or on the train.
  4. Prepositions don’t translate well from one language to another. For example, the Spanish de can mean of or from, and its en can mean in or on based the context in which it is used, while English speakers like to distinguish between these word pairs.

What’s the solution to the preposition conundrum for ESL learners? The same as the one for the article, which I write about in the last post: Read a lot of high-quality, current writing (reading aloud will help even more), and get as much writing feedback from coworkers as you can.

Books by Philip Vassallo
How to Write Fast Under Pressure
The Art of E-mail Writing
The Art of On-the-Job Writing
The Inwardness of the Outward Gaze: Learning and Teaching Through Philosophy

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