Saturday, October 31, 2009

More prepositions

Here's an example of the power of prepositions to change the meaning.

I was talking to someone about a friend who had suddenly gotten sick (the flu, it turns out). I said, "Oh, it sounds so bad, that she's IN the hospital."
He replied quickly, "It isn't that bad. She's just AT the hospital, not IN it."

That is, she hadn't been admitted, so she was not IN it. The condition wasn't so bad, so they were treating her AT the hospital.

I think most of us would get the distinction right away.

Full moon for Halloween, huh? How often does that happen? Well, almost full. I guess it'll be fully full tomorrow.


Riley Murphy said...

Hi Alicia!

This is a bandwagon I'll jump on.
Although it's a topic I haven't thought of.
It's one I think that most of us writers can’t cope with.
Although, for you I want to.
But, I don’t know how long I can do it for.


Edittorrent said...

LOL, Murph. Heck, you can probably go on for awhile!


Skeptic said...

I'll be the voice of dissent regarding the in/at distinction. ;) That (specifically as it relates to hospitalization) irritates me. I work IN a hospital. Anyone who walks through the door is IN the hospital. We don't have an emergency department AT my campus. That's a distinction I completely understand. ;)

/end total stranger/blog lurker rant

Anonymous said...

I'm a lurker, too, but I wanted to add a comment on this. An off-topic comment. You know how in the US we say we're at the hospital or in the hospital? In Canada & the UK they cut out the 'the' entirely. (Ex: We're at hospital with Mom.) Maybe you know this already. It's just something that I found interesting when I went to work at a hospital in Toronto.

Riley Murphy said...

@ Alicia: Yep, but I'd probably not know where to stop from.:D

@ Anon: I lived in Toronto for years. Yes, in hospital or at hospital. My favorite? On holiday.

*shrug* That was just the bloody nonense up with which I had to put.


Anonymous said...

Anon, also "going to university".

Of course, we say "going to THE university," and "going to college," so we're nothing if not inconsistent!

Skeptic, thanks for the "inside" view. :) INside! It's interesting how the layperson and the insider terms are going to be different in so many -- in so many situations, but ON so many occasions. :)

You know, generally there's some logic to which prepositions are used, but sometimes none at all. Why IN situations, but ON occasions?

Had dinner with the son last night and he actually said "on accident". I thought it was so cute, I didn't call attention to it. But my students all do that too-- of course, it's perfectly consistent with "on purpose."