Learning another language can be a difficult, seemingly impossible endeavor a times. The subtle intricacies of languages can be tough to grasp: Chinese and the honorific case, pronouncing French, German articles, Russian case system, Latin declensions, and in English, prepositions. Indeed, the most common complaint from foreigners is the difficulty grasping our metaphorical, abstract use of prepositions.
For instance, when we take a flight, we claim we’re on a plane. Surely, one is not literally on a plane. The same applies to authors, why is a book by someone; or why is a building under construction? Indeed, to us Americans this is easy to grasp and poses no issue, but to foreigners, and the Brits, grasping our use of prepositions is difficult and illogical—because it is in fact, illogical.
Indeed, examples of misused prepositions are endless. For instance, why do Americans dream about something, when Spaniards dream with something? Why do Germans schedule something against seven o’clock, not around seven o’clock? It is an inevitable inconsistency.
Perhaps, the most interesting example of prepositional discrepancies comes when comparing Americans with the English. For instance, I was once having lunch with a co-worker from “that precious stone set in a silver sea” (England) and I was nervous I didn’t have enough scratch to cover the meal. My co-worker, however, claimed he could run to breakfast. I had no idea what he was talking about. It turns out an American translations is as follows: I can pay for the bill in the event you don’t have enough money to pay your share.