Someone asked me this question which I could not able to answer:

then my question is , " I gave a book to him"--- here why we don't use a preposition before a book? Or " he killed a snake with a stick" .. Why here is also no preposition before a snake?

I told him that this is the rule of sentence construction so we have to follow them. It also occurred to me that may be the preposition is just sandwiched between two nouns and there are no other parts of speech in between. But in this case why is there a preposition "with" after "snake".

There was another question raised by him:

"he is at home" 
"I gave him books"

Why is there preposition "at" before "home" but not a preposition between "him" and "books"?

Please help me help him :)


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    Have you explained the idea of a direct object? All the examples without prepositions are direct objects, and that is not a coincidence. At home is not a direct object. – oerkelens Feb 16 '15 at 15:13
  • The basic function of prepositions is to clarify case relations among substantives. Since the relation of subject to direct object is the most fundamental of such relations, no preposition is needed or wanted. – Brian Donovan Feb 16 '15 at 15:59

It's because prepositions get deleted after verbs, sometimes. The pattern is clearer with the verb "present": "He presented a flower to her."/"He presented her with a flower." A basic "present with a flower to her" can have the prepositional phrases in either order, and the preposition that winds up next to the verb is lost.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you how to predict whether a preposition will be lost after a verb. Also, I don't know why "give", unlike "present", allows a prepositionless object after the indirect object.

  • The "missing" prepositions in the question would all appear before a direct object. Are you saying that direct objects usually are preceded by prepositions, but they get "deleted"? – oerkelens Feb 16 '15 at 15:50
  • I think present is the exception here, not give. Are you sure that the flower is the direct object in he presented her with a flower? – oerkelens Feb 16 '15 at 15:57
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    Yes, that's what I said, essentially (I believe that was also proposed by Charles Fillmore in "A proposal concerning English prepositions"). I proposed it for "present" and similar verbs in a 1966 paper at the Chicago Linguistic Society. I don't believe I said that "flower" is the direct object in presented her with a flower, and it is pretty obvious that it is not. – Greg Lee Feb 16 '15 at 16:13
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    @oerkelens, of course direct objects don't take a preposition. If they did, they wouldn't be direct objects. You can't prove anything by arguing in a circle. And I didn't say anything about give being exceptional. – Greg Lee Feb 16 '15 at 16:25
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    The proposal of my 1967 MA thesis, The English preposition "with", was to identify the with that occurs in indirect object constructions, reduced relative have clauses, and absolute constructions (With his work done, John ...) as being associated with subjects of certain sentences which express movement or association. (For give, the direct object moves to or becomes associated with the indirect object.) – Greg Lee Feb 16 '15 at 16:54

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