Avoid Overuse of  Prepositions in Speech and Writing

Published: 08th September 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st December 2014 12:32 PM   |  A+A-

One aspect of the English language that is hard for non-native speakers of English is prepositions. They tend to use prepositions either incorrectly or redundantly. Recently, a friend requested me to edit a report in which I came across the following sentences: 

  •  The participants were awarded with cash prizes and certificates. 
  •  They were able to cope up with pressure.
  •  The group was divided up into many sub-groups.

English.JPGIn each of the sentences above, there is an unnecessary preposition.  Though, it is correct to say ‘to be awarded with’, the preposition ‘with’ in the first sentence is unnecessary. Though many expressions with additional prepositions are grammatically correct, it is wise not to use them in academic writing. Wordy language is considered poor. The British National Corpus (BNC) has 2,484 results for the search ‘awarded’ whereas there are only four results for the search ‘awarded with’. Here are some authentic examples from BNC:

  • Prizes will be awarded to the top three entrants in each region.
  • In the event of a tie, the prize will be awarded to the entrant who answers the tie-break in the most amusing way.

In the second sentence, ‘to cope up with’ is incorrect as ‘up’ is unnecessary in the phrase. It is a very common error in India.We can find it in many official documents and news reports. Here are examples of the correct use of ‘cope with’:

  •  My secretary could not cope with the work pressure.
  •  He has learnt how to cope with migraine.
  •  She finds it hard to cope with her demanding husband.

In the third sentence, ‘up’ in the phrase ‘divided up into’ is unnecessary and the inclusion of it makes the phrase incorrect.  

  • The article is divided into three parts.
  • The Communication Skills Lab course is divided into two components: Career Lab and English Language Lab.

Here are more examples of sentences with unnecessary prepositions:

  • I will discuss about the problem in the next meeting.
  • Where did you send the scan report to?
  • He has gone to upstairs.
  • I don’t have enough money to meet with expenses.
  • The Director’s office is in downstairs.
  • The Vice-President travels to abroad once in two months.
  • Do not throw the waste out of the window.
  • Please meet up with the principal at 10 o’clock.
  • I returned back to Chennai only this morning.

In each of the sentences above, the preposition in bold is redundant and should be removed to make the sentences correct. Readers interested in understanding the use of prepositions in a variety of sentences can download ‘Mastering Preposition Combinations’ from .

In the words of Winston Churchill, “From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”


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