Why is a preposition sometimes optional?

5

3

This question arises after seeing this thread.

Consider the following sentences -

  1. There is no point discussing this here (Between "point" and "discussing", there is a "in" and that is optional. And I am omitting it purposefully for asking my doubt)

  2. Do you see any point in filling up all the forms?

  3. There is no use filling up the forms. ("using "in" after "use" is optional here)

  4. What is the use of filling up these forms?

My question is -

Why in some sentences omitting prepositions like this is optional and why in some cases placing preposition is a must?

Man_From_India

Posted 2014-04-19T04:01:51.920

Reputation: 10 615

1Even surprising, the adverbial particle *up* is optional there as well! :) I also read that filling out is more common in AmE. – Maulik V – 2014-04-19T04:31:32.343

This is too broad a question to answer. However, I may try coming up with some inputs. – Maulik V – 2014-04-19T04:34:55.870

@MaulikV Yes I understand it's broad, but a little input will be appreciated. Thanks for your effort. – Man_From_India – 2014-04-19T04:35:39.503

Meanwhile, omit the preposition and look at the sentence with your neutral eyes. If they still make sense, omission is okay! However, this does not happen in all case. In the case you mentioned, I think it does not make any grammatical disaster. There's no point discussing this matter looks absolutely fine to me. – Maulik V – 2014-04-19T05:36:18.717

Sorry friend. It's even complex than I thought. I searched and my head is spinnin' ;) I think we need to memorize and learn. That's it! – Maulik V – 2014-04-19T06:25:16.153

@MaulikV Ha ha...no problem...problem of not being native speakers :( – Man_From_India – 2014-04-19T06:45:02.357

@MaulikV I have composed an answer. There I gave an explanation. Please let me know if that explanation is okay. Thanks friend. – Man_From_India – 2014-04-19T16:07:00.627

Answers

3

Firstly, I think the correct verb is "fill out", not "fill up". You fill out forms, you fill up a glass of water or a trash can.

Here are your sentences with the optional preposition in parentheses. Just so we can see the possibilities more clearly.

  • There is no point (in) discussing this here.
  • Do you see any point (in) filling OUT all the forms?
  • There is no use (in) filling OUT the forms.
  • What is the use of filling OUT these forms?

In all of these examples, I think the sentence sounds better if you do not use "in". In fact, I would change the grammar of the second sentence entirely. Here are my recommended corrections.

  • There is no point discussing this here.
  • Do you see any REASON TO FILL OUT all the forms?
  • There is no use filling OUT the forms.
  • What is the use of filling OUT these forms?

In fact, these sentences are still sounding a little odd to me. If I wanted to convey these ideas, I personally would say something like...

  • Is this really the right place to discuss this?
  • Is there a reason that we have to fill out all the forms?
  • Filling out these forms seems pointless.
  • Why do we have to fill out these forms?

(American English)

RedDragonWebDesign

Posted 2014-04-19T04:01:51.920

Reputation: 1 251

1Thanks for your efforts. But your answer touches on what is more acceptable in AmE, but I want explanation from grammatical point of view so that when such kind of situation occurs in some other sentences I can successfully work that out. – Man_From_India – 2014-04-19T05:16:07.730

The phrase "no point (in)" could just have an optional preposition. I have seen this several times in Spanish, for example. Usage of the preposition seems idiomatic to me and does not follow any clear rules. That may be the case here as well. – RedDragonWebDesign – 2014-04-19T05:24:38.857

A little correction for the correctness of the verb. Fill up may be not common in AmE but it's not incorrect! – Maulik V – 2014-04-19T05:32:45.833

Not only for "no point", "any point", "no use" also gets into this list. – Man_From_India – 2014-04-19T05:32:57.020

@MaulikV Yes, I would say it's incorrect in AmE. Is it normal in InE? – snailplane – 2014-04-21T09:43:29.977

1@snailplane We stay away from the controversies... An Indian fills the form that's it haaha.. :) – Maulik V – 2014-04-21T09:45:06.070

To fill up a form is a new one on me; I do know that some people fill out forms: I generally fill them in. – TRiG – 2014-04-25T00:01:17.763

2@TRiG - I have heard of "fill up a form" before, but not in the context of AmE, and I don't think it's common at all for AmE. The way I think of it, is if the thing that is being filled is something like a "container", then you fill it "up". If it is a "form" where you complete the blank spaces, then you fill them "in" (fill-in-the-blanks). But, conversely for an "application" (credit, job, ...) I think of "fill 'out' the application", even though it is also a "form"; and when thinking about a crack that needs to be repaired (filled), I think fill "in" the crack. – Kevin Fegan – 2014-04-25T02:11:42.097

1

A general rule: if you have a verb construction of the typ vb + object + prep object/complement there is a tendency in English to drop the prep as long as the construction remains clear.

Abbreviations: vb verb, prep preposition, s someone, sth something, dg doing

Examples

to spend time with studying English / to spend time studying English

to prevent s from doing sth / to prevent s doing sth - In the novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier a young girl prevents a man jumping from a cliff.

to waste time with dg sth / to waste time dg sth - A mother: My son wastes a lot of time watching videos.

By the way it is mostly: It's (of) no use dg sth - It's no use crying over spilt milk.

rogermue

Posted 2014-04-19T04:01:51.920

Reputation: 8 304

1I like the explanation; however, I think it should be spend time (on) doing something, and waste time (in) doing something. – Damkerng T. – 2014-04-19T17:10:58.633

If you prefer "on" okay. I 'm German and in German "wir verbringen Zeit mit etwas, nicht: auf etwas" (we spend time with sth, not on sth), so I prefer "with". – rogermue – 2014-04-19T17:30:28.930

1I don't think this rule you mentioned here is a general one, and applies to all. see this example - "I don't see the point in filling out all the forms". This sentence also has the pattern like you mentioned in your answer, but in my sentence omitting the preposition "in" not optional, instead a must. – Man_From_India – 2014-04-20T00:42:32.287

1

Man from India wrote *There is no point to do it. *There is no use to do it.

Every grammar and dictionary says the pattern with "use" is with gerund as in It's no use crying over spilt milk. I have studied this problem a bit more closely to understand why in English the gerund is preferred and not the infinitive.

The underlying pattern seems to be: Crying over spilt milk is of no use. This formula was transformed by placing the gerund group at the end with a precursory "it" at the beginning and drop of "of". So the original sense was: It's of no use. - What? - The crying over spilt milk.

Theoretically you could say the idea might be expressed with infinitive as well. That's right. Nevertheless English speakers prefer the gerund construction. And it would be difficult to explain why. Sometimes, when there are two possibilities the community of speakers comes to agree on one pattern and simply keeps to it.

There is no point in worrying (meaning There is no sense in worrying)

This formula expresses the same idea, but it uses "there" and "in".And this is the standard form to say it.

If you find variants and mixtures of the two formulas then I would say this is due to speakers, mostly non-natives, who tend to use variants and mix formulas as they don't carry dictionaries around with them.

rogermue

Posted 2014-04-19T04:01:51.920

Reputation: 8 304