With, to, of, in, on – we all use prepositions in both our speech and our writing that it’s easy to stop noticing them at all. It is not that they are not important words, far from it. Proclaiming that you are going the shop sounds pretty dumb, so that ‘to’ is a must in this example.
But how about some of the more unusual and colourful prepositions that are available to us as writers? What kinds of ways can they be used to enhance your writing (or not)? And which of them should you be sprinkling into your work more often? Let’s take a look.
Many of the less used prepositions came to the English language from Latin. And while you may not use them very often you will have seen most of them before. Remember that high school English class? And all those works of classic literature that you pretended to read thoroughly (and just skimmed)? Prepositions that we now think of rare – or even silly – are frequently featured in most of those.
However, just because these words are no longer in common use does not mean that they no longer have a place in modern speech and writing. You just have to know how and when to use them effectively.
There’s a Time and Place For Prepositions
Any preposition indicates relation — or place, position or time, place, or position — and that is something that really hasn’t changed over the years, even as our language has evolved. But lots of the less widely utilized prepositions seem more fanciful than words you’d make use of in modern conversation or writing.
Here’s a look at some once heavily used prepositions, what they mean and their use in our modern language.
Apropos means with regard to, but people rarely use it nowadays. It’s an odd word because it’s an adverb too, “appropriately.” You still see and hear the phrase “apropos of nothing.” It’s one of the few apropos phrases that has survived to the modern day, but it’s not even its preposition form.
This is a more convoluted way of saying among. It’s no surprise that most people cut it down when you can say the same thing with fewer letters. And because it is used so little lots of people think it isn’t a real word at all, especially in the US.
Passive aggressive emails are keeping this preposition alive. “Per my earlier email…” is the most direct way to let someone know that hey, you’re still waiting on their reply, the one you needed yesterday. It means according to, and it is not to be confused with its adverb form (for each).
This one is more of an abbreviation than a word. However, it is both, short for the preposition regarding, but it was used often enough at one time to warrant its own distinction.
Via is a much shorter way to say by way of, but, for some reason, we don’t use it as much as that longer phrase.
This last Latin derived preposition means face to face and was once used to talk about opposites. It’s like versus, but in a less competitive sense and, to be frank, sounds a little more elegant.