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Compound prepositions

These prepositions are called compound prepositions, or multisyllabic prepositions. Like most prepositions, they have both literal and figurative meanings. David explains. 

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Hey grammarians, today we're talking about compound prepositions which are prepositions that have more than one syllable. And a syllable is like a unit of rhythmic measurement in language. So for example you could say, com-pound prep-o-si-tions. Right so, the word compound has two syllables here and the word prep-o-si-tions has four. And it's how many rhythmic word sounds there are. That's all it means. And it generally tends to mean that a word is more complicated. Adding to the complication is that a lot of these words have multiple meanings. Beginning with between. So between can have a literal meaning, but it can also have a metaphorical meaning. And what it means is that when you use between in a sentence, you're considering multiple objects as individuals. So, between considers individuals. I'll explain. So you could say something literal. Like, "The firefly zipped between the raindrops." Literally going in between each one. But you could also use it in an abstract, metaphorical way. "What do you want to watch? "I can't decide between Humdinger! and Police-Cat." Right, which are made up TV shows. This describes not a physical relationship, but the relationship of ideas. You're choosing between two ideas. Or making a decision between two concepts. Now, between often gets confused with the word among. And they do have distinct meanings. Because where between considers individuals, among is a preposition that considers collections. So among considers collectively. Among can also have a literal, physical meaning. Or a metaphorical meaning. We could say something like, "Ashley and Cyrus frolicked among the daisies." And we could say this because we're not really distinguishing between each individual daisy, the way that the firefly up here in this sentence is distinguishing between each individual raindrop that it flies between. I imagine Ashley and Cyrus as dancing through or frolicking through a field of daisies, and they are not distinguishing between each one. You can also use among metaphorically. And say, "Among the ideas you've had, "I like this one best." So considering the entire collection of ideas that you might've had, like say for a television show like something called Humdinger! and something called Police-Cat. Among those ideas, among like a multitude of ideas I like this one. But the difference is, in this in this prepositional phrase, that we're just sort of considering all of those ideas as a collective group. Let's look at some more prepositions. Around is a word that has both a literal and a metaphorical connotation. And around is in the literal sense, is pretty, pretty explanatory. Pretty self-explanatory. "The fox ran around the tree." Right, so we got this tree, then we got a little fox going around it. There goes the weird lookin' little foxy. But in the metaphorical sense, we can also use this connotation of going around something in a circle, you know, "The mayor talked around the issue." You can use the word around as a metaphor to say that someone is avoiding something. By instead of addressing it head-on, just going what, what's that? Nope. And here's your little trouble box, here. So you can take this physical idea and extend it into the realm of the figurative in language. Against, right, has this connotation of opposing or opposition. And literally you can say something like, "Rudyard leaned heavily against a tree." Or you can use it metaphorically, by saying you're opposed to something, you're opposed to an idea, right? "Georgie campaigned against clog dancing." Which for the record, is a beautiful tradition. Within is a word that basically just means in or inside. And you can use it literally, you know, to say, "There's a frog within the pond." Which is maybe a little ponderous but you get the idea. But if you wanted to get metaphorical, you could say non-literally, "Who can say what is within Ralph's heart?" Right, and we're not asking, you know, what's the condition of his cardiac muscles, we're not talking about the blood, we're talking about what spiritually or what emotionally is going on inside Ralph. Without is an interesting one because it kinda has, it used to mean something different. It used to mean something more akin to outside, but now it has this connotation of just not with. It's the opposite of with. "I guess we're going to the Candy Planet without Stu, then." All right, let's look at two more examples. So inside basically means the same thing as in, or within. You can use it much the same way as you would use any of those other two words. So you could use it literally. And ask, "What's inside the box?" But we can also use this kind of interiority as a metaphor and say, "What's inside her mind right now?" Because the difference between that and the literal sentence is you can open the box, you can't really open someone's mind. Not physically, anyway. You could open someone's mind by showing them new foods and movies and books and music and stuff. But you can't really get inside someone's head unless you're a psychic mind wizard. Finally, beyond. And beyond is a preposition that has this connotation of being far away. Like far away and past some point. It also has a literal meaning and it has a metaphorical meaning. So for example, you could say literally, "Beyond those mountains is Terrell's kingdom." Right, we're using these mountains as like a literal, literal boundary. Little snow-cap peaks. And past them is Terrellia. But you can also use it as a metaphor, we can use this physical relationship as a metaphor. You can say something like, "This strawberry's flavor is "beyond anything I've ever had before." Right, this is like the world's most delicious strawberry and its taste, its flavor, surpasses, it goes past you know, over the mountains and into Terrellia, that's how delicious it is. Oh my goodness, what a strawberry, you know? We're using this physical relationship as a figurative metaphor. We're using that to say that this strawberry over here is way better than anything else that we've had previously. Like this square rock. This is, you used to eat rocks before. Now you've had a strawberry for the first time and oh my goodness it's just blowing you away. Although we do eat rocks all the time, if you think about what salt is, technically. Anyway, these are eight of the most common compound prepositions. There are more listed in the exercises. You can learn anything. David out.