Published: 07th December 2019
Coping with long prepositions: Where to use words and phrases like 'notwithstanding', 'under wraps' and more
What is the difference between ‘cause of’ and ‘cause for’? Most learners of English are unsure whether the word ‘cause’ is followed by the preposition ‘of’ or ‘for’. Both the prepositions can be used
A young student, acting as a quiz master, asked me, “What is the longest one-word preposition?” I tried my best to answer her question but failed. “Shall I give you a clue?” she asked me. “Yes,” I said. “It is a 15-letter word,” she replied. I couldn’t think of any answer. The next clue was this: “It is a combination of three words.” The clue seemed to be more difficult than the question. The student was so happy that I couldn’t give her the right answer.
What is the answer? It is ‘notwithstanding’. A tough word, indeed! Not only learners, even many teachers of English know that it is a preposition. It can be used in the place ‘in spite of’, ‘despite’ or ‘regardless of’.
The preposition is not very commonly used. As I don’t remember having used it in any of my writings, I was surprised when I came across the word in a student’s English writing assignment. Here are examples of how the word as a preposition is used in sentences:
Notwithstanding her poor health, she took part in the essay competition and won the first prize.
Heavy rains notwithstanding, he travelled to Mumbai and presented his paper at the conference.
As you have noticed in the sentences above, ‘notwithstanding’ can be positioned either before or after the noun it refers to. It is mostly postpositive as in the second example. ‘Notwithstanding’, when used as a conjunction, has the meaning of ‘although’ or ‘in spite of the fact that’. Look at these examples:
His contract was terminated, notwithstanding he was rated the best employee.
The activists couldn’t win the case, notwithstanding their lawyer argued the case brilliantly.
What is the meaning of the idiom ‘under wraps’? It means concealed, secret or known to only a few people. It is usually used as ‘keep under wraps’. Here are examples of how it is used:
Some celebrities try to keep their relationships under wraps, far from the public.
The identity of the person whom she is going to marry is being kept under wraps.
What is the difference between ‘cause of’ and ‘cause for’? Most learners of English are unsure whether the word ‘cause’ is followed by the preposition ‘of’ or ‘for’. Both the prepositions can be used. They have a very slight difference in meaning. ‘Cause of’ is used to imply a causal relationship and ‘cause for’ is used to imply a valid reason for doing something. The use of ‘cause of’ is more common than ‘cause for’. The search for the phrase ‘cause of’ in the British National Corpus yielded 2,941 results whereas ‘cause for’ yielded only 652 results.
Do you know the cause of our former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s death?
Detectives are probing the cause of a fire that caused much damage to their property.
Is the phrase ‘cope up with’ correct?
No, it is incorrect. ‘Cope with’ is the correct phrase. Many Indian English speakers use the expression
‘cope up with’ but it is not a standard expression.
Look at these examples:
Are you able to cope with the situation?
She is learning to cope with academic stress.