Choosing the correct preposition is not always easy (for anyone)

In a Youtube video I watched today, Macmillan Education give an example of how grammar traditionalists will often insist on a particular rule being hard and fast. Common usage, though, sometimes shows that their ‘rule’ is in fact NOT 100 per cent foolproof.

(In case you’re wondering, Macmillan uses a list of words, phrases and references – a corpus – to ascertain common usage, or how a word is used in ‘real life’.)

The video asks whether we should say different to or different from (and concludes that both are possible). Interesting stuff, but I’d like to mention one little thing that caught my attention. The Macmillan teacher says: “Choosing the correct preposition can be quite a challenge for learners of English.”

Only for learners?

Perhaps he should have left out ‘for learners of English’ and said simply: “Choosing the correct preposition can be quite a challenge.”

Why? Well, trust me, native English speakers confuse their prepositions sometimes, too. I often find myself a little unsure about which preposition is ‘correct’.

Maybe this post would be better titled ‘Confessions of an English teacher’!

Here’s the link to the video, if you can’t see it above:

Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. Follow Stuart and contact him by subscribing to his monthly newsletter.

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