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Five prepositions that can also be verbs

Prepositions are the Pritt Sticks, paperclips and split pins that hold our sentences together. The nouns, verbs and adjectives we use might be the pretty pictures we want to show off on our walls, but without the prepositions to hold them in place and connect them to one another, they’ll end up all over the floor in an untidy heap.

By and large, prepositions go about their job quietly and modestly, rarely grabbing the headlines. Now and again though, some of them like to take action. Occasionally, they take the form of a verb.

Here are five that can do this:

1. Up

‘Up’ is a direction, but it’s not always used in this strict sense in sentences. Common phrases like ‘give up’, ‘take up’ and ‘wash up’ have little to do with trajectory, but the ‘up’ certainly gives each of these verbs a new meaning.

Used as a verb, it refers specifically to making something bigger, better or higher though, as in phrases like ‘I will up my game’ and ‘builders have upped the stadium’s capacity’.

2. Down

‘Down’ is the opposite of ‘up’, but is also often paired with verbs, as in ‘put down’, ‘sit down’ and ‘talk down’.

As a verb, it can refer to eating or drinking, or simply lowering something. The snooker-based TV show ‘Big Break’, if you remember it, would often talk of ‘downing the brown’.

3. Round

Phrases like ’round the clock’ and ’round the year’ show ’round’ acting as a preposition, but it’s a word that can take verb, noun, adjective or adverb form.

As a verb, it’s used in phrases like ’round the edges’ and ’round your lips’, and simply refers to the act of making something round.

4. Off

It’s not commonly heard, but ‘off’ can be used to mean ‘to depart’, as in the phrase ‘upped and offed’. On a more serious note, it can be another word for ‘murder’ or ‘kill’.

5. Out

Used mainly as a preposition, ‘out’ is another word that falls into a number of lexical categories. For example, the phrase ‘to come out’, which was once mainly assumed to refer to being released from prison, now more commonly refers to an announcement of being homosexual.

Therefore, to ‘out’ somebody means to expose them, and to make some kind of secret into public knowledge.

Now that these prepositions have been outed for their dual roles, can you up your use of them in writing and conversation?

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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