0

Take an instance with some of the most common English prepositions: in, on, at, below, and above.

  1. The noun "aircraft" goes with "on", but is the sentence "Parachuters jump off the plane" must be used in this context? Can it go with "out of"?
7
  • 1
    What do you mean by "relative to one another"? What do you mean by "is the sentence 'Parachuters jump off the plane' must be used in this context?"
    – alphabet
    Feb 3 at 15:27
  • 1
    Prepositions aren't as invariable as you believe. I got on the plane—most common. I got into the plane—less common, but perfectly grammatical. Feb 3 at 16:03
  • Prototypical usages of prepositions show locative / directional relations between two referents (The ball is on / beside / under / behind / by ... the table; she went to / from ... the station) or temporal ones (the speech is before / after / during after the meal). But increasingly metaphorical to peripheral usages get trickier and more idiosyncratic (he was on the train; the shed was on fire). Feb 3 at 16:05
  • To reply to Alphabet's comment, I would like to point out that "relative to one another" means prepositions related to other prepositions (antonyms, synonyms, etc). For instance, the opposite of "get onto a plane" is "get off a plane". Feb 3 at 16:10
  • 1
    I think there is confusion between phrasal verbs per se versus verbs with a prepositional phrase.
    – Lambie
    Feb 3 at 17:25

1 Answer 1

1

If I get off a plane, it means that the plane is on the ground and I am simply disembarking on foot. If I get out of a plane, it means that I am using an unconventional method of leaving the plane -- it might be still airborne if I am a parachutist; or it might be on fire and I am using the emergency slide; or it might be (from Kate Bunting's comment) that it's a small plane that you have to climb out of, instead of leaving it on foot.

This mirrors the opposite usage: if I get on a plane, I am boarding it in the normal way, on foot. If I get into a plane, I am crawling in through a window, or something similar.

So your notion of "relative" prepositions is valid here.

4
  • I would argue that this isn't necessarily true; for instance, if it's the kind of plane where you have to climb out of the cockpit, out of would be a reasonable preposition to use. Feb 3 at 17:20
  • @KateBunting:Yes, I agree. I've edited my answer accordingly.
    – TonyK
    Feb 3 at 17:25
  • For on and into, particularly with modes of transport, on is used for entering a conveyance on foot ("on a plane"; "on a bus"; "on a train"; "on a ship") and into when you can't do that ("into a car"). "When you can't do that" also holds true for the first list: "got into a bus" implies you didn't walk on normally. And "he travelled on a car" suggests something different from "he travelled in a car." [This doesn't change your answer, which is entirely correct; but expands it a little.]
    – Andrew Leach
    Feb 3 at 18:08
  • There's definitely a lot of variation. "On the plane" applies to passengers taking a flight, but "in the plane" applies certainly to some inanimate objects, possibly to a pilot in a warplane or a cleaner in an airport, maybe if the plane was an exhibit in a museum, etc.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 3 at 18:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.