praepositio is the Latin word for Preposition. It is made up a Noun, positio a placing, putting, posture and prae, which alone can function as both an Adverb before, in front or – fittingly – a Preposition before (among other meanings). And so we find that the Preposition takes its name from its habit of being placed before a Noun or similar. Here is some of what the Online Oxford Dictionary has to say about Prepositions:
A Preposition is a word such as after, in, to, on, and with. Prepositions are usually used in front of nouns or pronouns and they show the relationship between the noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence. They describe, for example:
· the position of something: Her bag was under the chair.
· the time when something happens: Shortly after their marriage they moved to Colorado.
· the way in which something is done: They stared at each other without speaking.
When learning Latin it is helpful to think in terms of the Prepositional Phrase. A Prepositional Phrase is a Phrase made up of a Preposition together with the Noun or Pronoun that follows it. Here are some examples: ad salutem to safety, sub sella under the chair, contra naturam against nature, cum eo with him, sine amica without a friend, apud Caesarem at the house of Caesar, post prandium after lunch. Note too that when the Noun or Pronoun is described by an Adjective, the Preposition is often placed between them, for example magna cum laude with great praise.
In Latin, a Preposition will force the Noun or Pronoun that follows it to be in a particular Case – that is, to have a particular ending. Some Prepositions demand to be followed by a Noun in the Accusative Case, such as ad towards*, post after and contra against. Others demand to be followed by a Noun in the Ablative Case, such as ab away from, cum with and sine without. Compare ad equum ambulo I walk toward the horse with ab equo ambulo I walk away from the horse. There are three Prepositions that can be followed by either Case – in, sub and supra – but that will have to wait for another posting.
*Be warned. I have given only the most common meaning of each Preposition. In a future post I will discuss how our understanding of a Preposition’s meaning is determined partly by context. Stay tuned!
Look! Are you able to see the drain-pipe (canalem aquosum) near the dumpster? Jessica certainly noticed it and immediately decided to climb it to safety.