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September 17th, 2008

Prepositions quiz

by Barbara Wallraff


Linda Bastien, of Northville, Mich., writes: “Which is the correct usage: ‘take exception to’ or ‘take exception with’? Example: ‘I take exception to your assumption that ...’ or ‘I take exception with your assumption that ...’?”


Dear Linda: I feel a quiz coming on. But first, the correct phrase is “take exception to.” Please don’t ask me why, though. It just is. In a slightly different universe, we might perfectly well say, “take exception with” instead, making the standard phrase more like “disagree with” and less like “object to” than it is in this universe.

“To” and “with” and most of their fellow prepositions are such short, common words that it’s surprising how tricky they can be. Let’s have a preposition quiz, to test everyone’s knowledge of which words are correct at the end of phrases like “take exception to.” In the Word Court tradition, this will be a contest as well: I’ll send an autographed copy of my book “Word Court” to one reader, chosen at random, who sends me -- on my Web site or by mail -- the correct answers within a week of the publication date of this column. To enter the contest, just tell me the first letter of each correct phrase below. By “correct,” I mean that it works in the example sentence. (Yes, I know some of the first letters repeat. Don’t worry about it.)

I’ve given you the first correct letter already: it’s “T,” of course.

--Take exception to: I take exception to the idea that prepositions don’t matter.
--Envious of: I am envious of people who never make mistakes.
--Bored of: Please don’t tell me you’re bored of this already!
--Abstain from: Clever people abstain from using words and phrases they don’t understand.
--Forbidden from: You’re not forbidden from looking something up if you’re uncertain.
--Center on: Many problems with prepositions center on idiom -- what’s usual -- rather than grammar.
--Lacking of: Admittedly, even some of the correct sentences here are lacking of elegance.
--Hinder from: Using prepositions in peculiar ways may hinder others from understanding what you mean.
--Substitute with: Sometimes you can correctly substitute one preposition with another -- and sometimes not.
--Equivalent to: Phrases can be equivalent to each other in meaning even if they’re completely different in form.
--Receptive to: It’s good to be receptive to learning new things.
--Similar to: This sentence is similar to the next one.
--Different to: This sentence is different to the previous one.
--Prefer to: Do you prefer this phrasing to alternatives that come to mind?
--Excerpt from: This quiz might be an excerpt from a book, except that I haven’t written the book yet.
--Tired of: By now, you’re probably tired of this -- so let’s stop.

Here’s hoping you get all the answers right. (Again, to enter my contest, just send me the first letter of each correct phrase.) I look forward to hearing from you!





© Copyright 2003 by Barbara Wallraff. Reprints require prior permission. All rights reserved.

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