Preposition problems.

It seems to me that there are too many prepositions around. We are told not to use adverbs, except when necessary. To this, I would add prepositions.

These are little words that tell us a bit more about the relationship of a noun or pronoun to something else.

The tea IN the cup is hot. Here IN shows the relationship between the cup and the tea.

The book is ON the table. Here, ON shows the relationship between the book and the table.

But they are often used far too frequently.

Take, for example, the commonly used OFF OF.

Take your feet OFF OF the chair. This is perfectly comprehensible without the second preposition.

Take your feet OFF the chair. Not only that, it is grammatically correct.

In saying OFF OF, there are two prepositions next to each other. It’s OFF that’s important. OF is doing nothing. It is not referring to anything. We wouldn’t say “Put the cutlery ON OF the table.” It sounds silly. It is silly. Just as OFF OF is.

DOWN is another preposition often used unnecessarily.

He sat DOWN on the chair. It is perfectly understandable without the DOWN. He sat on the chair.

Similarly, with lie. She lay down on the bed.

We can just as easily say: She lay on the bed.

Also, sometimes, words are used interchangeably, which doesn’t make much sense. Sometimes we slow DOWN. Mostly we do, but occasionally you’ll hear “Slow up!”

Down is a decrease, and Up an increase, in height and in volume of sound, it makes no sense to ‘slow up’.

Here are some more you can delete.

UP, as in stand up. He stood UP before speaking.

This can easily be: He stood before speaking.

Open UP, or reopen UP. The shopkeepers are pleased to be able to open up again after the lockdown.

Can be: The shopkeepers are pleased to open again after lockdown.

Lose the UP and it’s still the same meaning.


This I read on a blog post. Deliver ON their expectations.

If we lose ON, it still means the same: Deliver their expectations.

OUT: They started out from the house at 6 a.m.

Can be: They started from the house at 6a.m. (Or, better still would be: They left the house at 6 a.m.)

OFF (again)

We have heroes Riding OFF into the sunset, instead of simply Riding into the sunset.


A football commentator said: He slipped OVER, instead of simply He slipped.


I came across Continue on. This sounds odd to me. The robber continued on running after the policeman said to stop, instead of: The robber continued running after the policeman said to stop.

Of course, every preposition is not an enemy, just as every adverb or adjective isn’t. I would advise reading through your work and seeing how it sounds without these little words. Your work will be much tighter and stronger without those that can be eliminated.

And PLEASE don’t say OFF OF! That is so irritating.

What do you think of prepositions? Do you think they are overused? Tell me your thoughts in the comments box.

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10 thoughts on “Preposition problems.”

  1. I plead guilty! Usually I catch most of these goofy usages when I edit, but one time I went through an entire MS looking for misuse of “up” and “down.” It was stunning how many times it was unnecessary. Good reminder to all of us! Thanks, RJ 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Up and down are probably the most common, but there are so many that the post could have been much longer.
      I’m going through a wip that I’ve not looked at for a while, because I was finishing another. Like you, I’m shocked at how many unnecessary of these little blighters I’ve used.


  2. I’m not sure it’s something I worry about, but perhaps I should. I’ll bear in mind in my current editing and see how had I’ve been. My dad was of your school. One recurring gripe he had was an advert that offered some extra ‘for free’. In his book it didn’t need the ‘for’ and he’d chunter at the TV every time this advert appeared. Not sure I really understood his problem which may be my problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This post came about to a large extent because of ‘off of’, which makes me want to scream every time I hear it. (As it’s becoming more common as the UK adopts more Americanisms, you might hear me screaming from where you are!)
      But in the critique group to which I belong, I’m always being told , ‘It’s just *sat* not *sat down*, or to lose *up* if I say ‘He looked up at the sky.’

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely. I’m the same. The little blighters sneak in regardless of how much you try.
      It’s been brought home to me recently. I’m currently reading a book that has lots of them. (I can’t help but highlight them with a comment. Must be the teacher in me!) the story is good and original, but the writing comes over as amateurish.

      Liked by 2 people

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