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Preposition? Adverb? Or Part of the Verb?

Welcome to the grammatical equivalent of Dante's Inferno,
for here ye shall find Discord incarnate and devils to lead you astray.

     Somewhere I think I still have a letter from David Crystal, a fairly well-known British linguist, who claimed, in essence, that it is impossible to teach primary school students to recognize all the prepositional phrases in any sentence. In some ultimate sense, he may be correct, but that is, in part, because grammarians themselves cannot all agree about what is and what is not a prepositional phrase. Is "for the truth" a prepositional phrase in "Search for the truth"? Or, since "search for" means "seek," is the "for" part of the verb? Grammarians disagree. They also like to spend a lot of time discussing such disagreements, and they bring them into their classrooms. Or, if they do not, they bring in just their perspective, i.e., "for the truth" is not a prepositional phrase. The KISS perspective on this set of problems is simple. It simply accepts more than one explanation. If you want to explain "for the truth" as a prepositional phrase, that is fine. If you want to consider the "for" as part of the verb, that is fine also. Students should have the same option.
     I have been informed by one grammarian on the ATEG list that some grammarians refuse to accept more than one explanation. I'm also aware that many people do not like the idea of multiple explanations. They want "the right answer." People are, of course, free to search for it, but I would like to warn you that in that search you may be led by multiple devils that will lead you astray. You can put so much time into this question that you will, as a result, never get to the important aspects of syntax -- clauses, errors, style, etc. The "Notes for Teachers and Parents" explore these problems in more detail, but you might want to start with the instructional material for students and with the answer keys to some of the exercises.
 

Notes for Teachers and Parents
Instructional Material for Students
Caution: These exercises focus on a relative exception in the task of learning to identify prepositional phrases. They should be used only after students can identify most prepositional phrases.
Exercise # 1 Analysis Key G4; IG4 L2.1.5 Phrasal
Exercise # 2 Analysis Key G4 L2.1.5 Phrasal
Exercise # 3 Analysis Key G6 L2.1.5 Phrasal

I want to thank Stephanie McGuirk for collecting and submitting the sentences used in these exercises. The sentences in exercises one and two were written by a fourth grader; those in exercise three, by a sixth grader.


This border is based on a detail from Michelangelo's
"The Last Judgment" in the Cappella Sistina, Vatican.