23 December 2013

Hanging In, Hanging Out, Hanging On

I'm certain someone taught you all about prepositions long ago, but this cartoon caught my eye, and I decided that would be my topic today.  Rather than make this seem like a lesson, I've written an exercise to see how much you remember from those old school days. Please decide on your answers before going to the bottom to check them.   


1.  What's the difference between a preposition and a proposition?

2.  Who recorded "The Preposition Song"?  Why is it called that?

3.  Who is credited with coining the rule that writers shouldn't end sentences with prepositions?

4.  What word should "of" never replace?

5.  What preposition should be used with the word "different"?

6.  Who responded to an editor's demand that a sentence be        reworded because it ended with a preposition with this statement:
"This is the sort of English up with which I cannot put"?


1. A preposition shows a relationship while a proposition sometimes starts a relationship.
Tanya Tucker

2.  Tanya Tucker recorded "Hanging In."  The hook for the chorus is "Hanging in, hanging out, hanging on."

3. John Dryden, a seventeenth century poet, is credited with the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition.  Throughout history, writers have sometimes broken this rule.  Sometimes the preposition at the end of a sentence is needed while at other times, it is unnecessary and incorrect.
John Dryden

Examples:  Where is the dog? Correct.  Where is the dog at? Incorrect.
That is something I cannot agree with. Correct.
Which team are you on?  Correct.  Note that Which team are you? changes the meaning. 

4.  "Of" should never replace "have." 
Example:  I should have known he would do that.  Correct.
I should of known he would do that. Incorrect. 

5.  Grammatically correct according to text books is the phrase "different from," but that's a frequent error made by many speakers and writers who use "different than."
Winston Churchill

6.  That sentence is attributed to Sir Winston Churchill.

What's wrong with the answer to question two?

BONUS QUESTION 2 (Multiple Choice)
Which is proper?
(A) between you and I
(B) between you and me
(C) between me and you

In the answer to question 2, the "in," "out," and "on" aren't used as prepositions.  They're are all used as adverbs modifying "hanging."

Many people say or write (A) between you and I.  For some reason, they think "I" sounds "more proper."  (A) is incorrect. 

Even more people, who don't care if they're proper or not, use (C) between me and you.  (C) is incorrect because grammatically "you" is named before the speaker.  

The correct answer is (B) between you and me because between is a preposition and the correct usage is to follow a preposition with the objective case of a pronoun, which is "me," while "I is the subjective case.

A personal question from me to you... I hope I haven't insulted anyone with these questions.  I'm sure all of our readers and writers made a perfect score. Now I have a question that I'd really like every one of you to answer through comments.


In the South, we stand in line to wait for something.  We tell children, "Please get in line," but many non-southerners say, "I had to stand on line to get the tickets."

What do you say and can anyone find a definitive answer whether in line is correct or on line?

Until we meet again, take care of … you!


  1. Funny, Fran, and educational. Reminds me of an early column about prepositions in Criminal Brief.

    As where to place a preposition, James Warren said to look at the word itself: pre-position.

    I would argue ‘in line’ is correct, because you’re placing a person within a queue of people (unless there’s a line painted on the floor). To me, ‘on-line’ relates to computer networking.

  2. Love the cartoons!

  3. Fran, this was a lot of fun--I love posts about language. And I prefer standing IN line, not on line.

  4. Fran, I enjoyed the cartoons too. I always stand in line. I’ve never heard anyone say they stand on line.

  5. Enjoyed this, Fran. Speaking of southernisms--we used to be fixin' to do something, instead of getting ready to do something.

    Also, I used to have suspects "toe" the line (a line painted on the floor) for mug shots so they were correctly framed--framed in the photo, of course, not the charges.

  6. David, that southernism is still in use. I'm fixin' to go get some lunch.

  7. Nobody ever prepositions me!

    Sally Gianelli

  8. I stand IN line, and howl at cartoons, and I know that you should never end a sentence with a preposition unless of course you've been propositioned, at which point it's Katy bar the door!

  9. Fran, I have always stood IN line, unless:

    (a)There was a line painted on the floor, or a joint in the sidewalk we were all supposed to toe, when I was in the army.

    (b) I was ordered to help form a rough skirmish line, by the command: "ON-LINE!" also while in the army. (Though this command is not heard all that often, except when policing up trash, these days. LOL)

    (c)If I were to climb up and stand on the shoulders of people standing in line, I'd feel quite comfortable saying I was standing "on line", however I weigh quite a bit and don't believe those standing in line, below me, would be terribly comfortable while I said this. LOL

    I have noticed that British folks seem to say they stand ON line. And, I've run into a few Americans who said it, too, but don't know where they hailed from.

  10. Oh, I once heard someone claim that standing IN line meant you were all facing in the direction of the line-leader (i.e. facing the back of the person in front of you in line), while standing ON line connotes the idea that you are standing in a line, but facing at a 90-degree angle to the line-leader (i.e. standing shoulder-to-shoulder).

    I have no idea if this suggestion holds water, or where I heard that explanation.

  11. I stand in line
    I say "between you and me" (and sometimes the fence post).
    I occasionally end a sentence with a preposition. (Love Churchill"s response).

    Eether, either, neether, neither. Let's call the whole thing off.

  12. Thanks for each of your comments. I'd thought "in" line might be southern, but apparently "on" line may have been British before it became an Internet term.
    I learned something from your comments. For one thing, I've heard "toe the line" all my life, but I thought it was "tow the line," kind of like, "tote that line, lift that bail, get a little drunk, and you'll land in jail."
    Glad you enjoyed the cartoons. I love humor, though sometimes what strikes me as funny is not always funny to others.
    MERRY CHRISTMAS to my fellow Christians!

  13. I lately lost a preposition.
    It hid, I think, beneath my chair.
    And angrily I cried, "Perdition!
    Up from out of in under there!"

    Now, correctness is my vade mecum,
    and straggling phrases I abhor.
    And yet I wonder, what should he come
    up from out of in under for?

    (Couldn't resist. I love that poem! Although I don't know who wrote it. Oh, and the 'in line'
    'on line' issue is merely a matter of dialect. Brits also say 'it's down to you' where Americans say 'it's up to you.' Many such examples of prepositional


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>