Grammar Guerrilla: Drop The “Of”

Sports-talk radio is a never-ending source of malapropisms and a good indicator of the state of the language. One abuse which I hear regularly on the radio and in personal conversation is the unnecessary use of the preposition of. A preposition indicates the relationship between two words or phrases. Generally, of indicates source, generation, or possession. E.g., “Everyone likes Sally. She is a great source of encouragement.” In this sentence encouragement comes from Sally. In some cases the word from may be used interchangeably. E.g., “He died of injuries sustained in the wreck” may also be expressed, “He died of injuries sustained from an accident.” It also signals a relationship between a part and a whole. E.g., “Sally is part of an excellent team.” Of indicates possession: “Sally became President of the United States.”  The office of president belongs to the United States.

It is over used, however. In the sentence, “He is a good enough of a quarterback to start for the Huskers” the preposition of is unnecessary. Writers and speakers probably insert of because of the implied comparison between one quarterback and other quarterbacks. The sentence is clear, however, without of: “He is a good enough quarterback to start for the Huskers.” The abuse of the preposition of may also occur because the speaker wishes to intensify his comparison. Unless he is expressing the idea of source (generation), possession, or the relationship between a part to a whole, he does not need the preposition of.

Robert Strivens reminds us another abuse: confusing have with of. He gives this example, “We should all of known this.” Of course, the correct auxiliary verb is have, not the preposition of. The confusion is likely due to the way both are pronounced in many dialects. The colloquial spoken expression should’ve for should have misleads some to think that the contraction stands for of rather than have.

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    • A famous mid 20th Century Brit once said that Britain & America were
      separated by a common language,

      Scott I’m afraid that your use of mid 20th Century Brits will cause your english
      to be more proper, which may result in you confusing your American audience

    • Robert Joseph T: I’m not sure that any famous Brit ever said such a thing – I believe it’s rather apocryphal. Whom did you have in mind?

      “Scott I’m afraid that your use of mid 20th Century Brits will cause your english
      to be more proper, which may result in you confusing your American audience”

      Brit correction: ‘which may result in YOUR confusing your American audience’.

    • Kevin,
      The same Brit that said ” I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us.
      Pigs treat us as equals.” Mr Churchill, of course!
      Brit correction Your, got it, thanks

  1. Mr. McGrane: I’ve seen the “two peoples separated by a common language” attributed variously to Winston Churchill and G. B. Shaw, and possibly even to Oscar Wilde.

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