Prepositions Rule

The sainted Dr. Buls said whole sermons can be written on Greek prepositions.  In Lutheran elementary school I was required in 6th grade to memorize the following poem.


Until by into after from
Across against with toward on
Among along around of to
Beside beyond below at through

Upon in for beneath between
Behind before without within
Up over under down about
Since underneath except throughout


Now through the “magic” of internet, I learn that this poem was written by a Lutheran elementary teacher named Mr. Greutzmacher who taught at Elm Grove Lutheran School.  Another verse has sense been added which reads as follows:


Like during on account of as
Because of above according to near
In addition to by means of aside from aboard
Out of instead of in place of past


Given the fact that many elementary school children don’t memorize multiplication tables, I don’t think there will be a resurgence of this poem.  However, prepositions still rule.


While watching the recent movie Reservation Road, as usual I had the closed captioning on. The actor speaks the line, “I hated my mom crying all the time.”  The closed caption reads, “I hated my mom for crying all the time.”  In the former, the character is expressing pity for his mother.  In the later, he is explaining why he hates his mother.  I think this is a critical point in the movie.


I don’t know is if the actor or the closed captioning people blew it.  I also don’t know if ‘for’ is a preposition in this sentence, so much for my memorizing that poem.  My wife tells me it can’t be because “crying all the time” isn’t a person, place, or thing and prepositions need nouns. It probably is a conjunction, but I didn’t want to title this “Conjunctions Rule.”


If any English majors try to post a comment about this, to use a phrase Churchill never said supposedly in response to someone critical of him ending sentences with prepositions, “”This is the kind of tedious [sometimes “pedantic”] nonsense up with which I will not put!”

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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4 Responses to Prepositions Rule

  1. Derek Kurth says:

    Despite your injunction against pedantry, I must say: I think “for” is indeed a preposition.

    “Crying all the time” is a gerund — a verbal ending in “ing” that acts as a noun. It is right that prepositions need nouns; in this case “crying all the time” is, in a sense, a noun — you could say “crying all the time” is a *thing*.

    On the other hand, should I even post this comment? Will it spark strife within your marriage? Well, here I stand… I can do no other… 🙂

  2. Bart Goddard says:

    I’ve been strife-ful lately, but in this case I’m right. “For”
    can be a preposition or a conjunction. When it is a
    conjunction, it means “because,” and that’s what it means
    in this case. You both owe me a dollar.

  3. Bart Goddard says:

    OK, keep your dollars. The famous Grammar Maven has
    responded to my inquiry. In US usage, “for” is a
    preposition here, but I don’t have to give you dollars
    since in British usage it _might_ be a conjunction.
    Here’s is Maven’s response:

    Dear Mr. Goddard:

    The grammatical tradition you’re arguing from can make a difference in
    how you answer this question. In American traditional grammar (as
    opposed to specific modern linguistic theories, which disagree on some
    points), “crying all the time” is indeed a gerund in that sentence, and
    hence the “for” is a preposition. The American definition of ‘clause’
    requires both a subject and a finite verb, and since gerunds lack both
    of those, they aren’t officially considered clauses (even subordinate
    ones). The second of the following two sentences uses a subordinate
    clause instead of a gerund:

    He hated his mother for crying all the time.
    He hated his mother, for she cried all the time.

    The subordinate clause version is quite rare in Modern American English.

    British practice differs, and it’s not unusual for British grammarians
    to consider gerunds (and participial phrases) as a kind of reduced
    clause, so the British preposition/conjunction cut-off falls at a
    slightly different point. The variation stems from the fact that until
    almost the end of the nineteenth century, grammarians really didn’t use
    formal definitions of ‘phrase’ and ‘clause’ — both could just mean “a
    group of words I think go together to make a unit” — and the approach
    that was eventually adopted in the U.S. grew mostly out of grammar
    textbooks that weren’t used in England.

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