Of

'Of' is one of the most important prepositions in English grammar that has a large number of functions. In this lesson, we will learn it in detail.

How to Use the Preposition "Of" in the English Grammar

The preposition of is one of the most controversial words in English grammar. Of usually connects and establishes a relationship between two nouns. In this lesson, we have tried to indicate its functions.

Functions of the Preposition 'Of'

  1. Of shows belonging of people or animals.
  2. Of shows something is a part of a whole.
  3. Of shows the category/type of something.
  4. Of shows association between two nouns.
  5. Of shows something has a relation to something else.
  6. Of adds a value that can be the age, size, etc.
  7. Of shows the content of something.
  8. Of shows the position of something.
  9. Of shows the material of something.
  10. Of adds a quality/an adjective to a noun.
  11. Of introduces an adjective complement.
  12. Of introduces a verb complement.

Use

1. 'Of' Shows Belonging

Of is used to show something or someone belongs to an animate noun that can be animals or people. For example:

The duty of the janitor

The paintings of Picasso

The tail of the dog

Possessive Nouns vs. the Preposition 'Of'

Whenever of is used to show belongings, we can use possessive nouns as well. In other words, the possessive form is never used for things. Look:

The duty of the janitor = the janitor's duty

The tail of the dog = the dog's tail

Possession vs. Belonging

Belonging means someone has private rights over something, but possession means something that someone has or possesses. Look at the following example:

A friend of mine went to Italy.

Here, 'of' shows possession because the speaker does not have a property over their friend. As a result, this example can be rewritten with the possessive determiner 'my': my friend

A book of his is what I want.

'His book'

2. 'Of' Shows a Part of a Whole

Of is used to show a part of a whole, a specific date in a period of time, or a specific or unspecific number in a set of other things. Look:

  • Of is used to show something is a part of something else. For example:

The button of the coat

The door of the car

  • Of is used to show a specific day in a month, a specific time in a period. For example:

In the time of the revolution

The second of May

  • Of shows a specific number in a group of things or people. Look:

Nine of the kids

Five members of the family

Three kilos of potato

  • Of is also used to show an unspecific number or amount in a set of things. In this case, we use quantifiers before of. Look:

Some of the people

A few of the books

Noun Adjunct vs. the Preposition 'Of'

A noun adjunct or a noun modifier is a noun that modifies another noun and acts as an adjective. When something is a part of something else or when we want to show a specific date in a period of time, we can also use noun adjuncts. Look:

The door of the car = the car door

Here, 'the car' modifies 'door.'

The fifth of May = May the fifth

'Fifth' takes the definite article 'the' because it is an ordinal number.

However, when we have determiners before of, we cannot make noun modifiers. Look:

A few of the books

'The books a few' is incorrect.

Five members of the family = the family five members

'Five' is a determiner.

3. 'Of' Shows a Category

Of is used to establish an association between the type or category and a noun. In this case, we can also use noun adjuncts. For example:

The problem of homelessness

'The homelessness problem' is also correct.

The skill of negotiation

'The negotiation skill' is also correct.

The city of Tehran

'The Tehran city' is a noun adjunct.

4. 'Of' Shows Association

Of can be used to connect two nouns and establish an association between two nouns. Therefore, it has a similar meaning to 'done to or about.' In this case, we can also make a noun modifier. Look:

  • Of is used to show the relationship between two nouns. The first one is an action done to the second noun. So, of has a similar meaning to done to. For example:

The murder of people

The oppression of a protest

the protest oppression

The destruction of forests

the forests destruction

  • Of establishes an association between two nouns and has a similar meaning to about. For example:

Stories of my childhood

Memories of her travel

'Her travel memories'

5. 'Of' Shows Relation

Of is used to show something has a relation to something else. In this case, we cannot change the noun phrase that has 'of' to noun modifier or possessive nouns. Look:

Love of music

'Music love' or 'music's love' are incorrect.

Fear of the darkness

6. 'Of' Shows a Value

Of is used to express the relationship between a measure/scale and a value that can be the age, size, time. etc. For example:

A girl of 12

The age of six

A rise of 2 percent

A book of 20 meters

Tip

In this case, we can use noun adjuncts as well if the value is followed by a measure or a scale. For example:

A book of 20 meters = a 20-meter book

A rise of 2 percent = a two-percent rise

A girl of two

This structure can be never changed into a noun modifier because numbers on their own cannot be a noun modifier.

7. 'Of' Shows the Content

Of is used to show what the content of something is. For example:

A glass of milk

A bag of beans

8. 'Of' Shows the Position

Of is used to show the position of something. Look:

Back of the dress

The corner of the barber shop

South of London

Tip

Remember that when of is used to show the content or the position of something, we cannot use noun adjuncts. Look:

A glass of milk = A milk glass

'A milk glass' is totally different from 'a glass of milk.' The former shows a specific type of glass but the latter shows a glass full of milk.

South of London

'London south' is incorrect.

9. 'Of' Shows the Material

Of is used to show the material or the substance of something. However, to show the material, noun adjuncts are more common. For example:

A table of paper

'A paper table' is more common.

A house of bricks

10. 'Of' Shows a Quality

Of is used to add an adjective to a noun. In this case, the speaker emphasizes the quality or the adjective. Look:

  • Of is used for description and to add quality to a noun. In normal cases, the adjective comes before the noun. Look:

A land of ice

An icy land

The country of wealth

The wealthy country

A subject of high importance

An important subject

A man of courage

A courageous man

  • Of is used to show the origin, nationality, or background of someone. For example:

A woman of Paris

A Parisian woman

A girl of Alabama

An Alabamian girl

11. 'Of' Introduces Adjective Complements

Of is used to introduce an adjective complement that can be a noun or a pronoun. It can be used to refer to people's behavior or shows the reason for something. Take a look:

  • Of is used to refer to people's behavior. For example:

It's kind of you.

'Of you' is the adjective complement.

That was mean of him that he smoked in the room.

It means 'he was mean that...'

That's very inconsiderate of her if she talked to you like that.

'She is very inconsiderate if...'

  • Some adjectives take the preposition of, like proud of, fond of, scared of, etc. The following noun is the reason for the adjective. For example:

He is proud of his work.

'His work' is an adjective complement and the reason for 'he is proud.'

I am fond of sports.

He is scared of you.

12. 'Of' Introduces Verb Complements

Of is used after some verbs to introduce a verb complement. The verb complement completes the verb. Look:

  • Of is used with some transitive verbs to introduce verb complements that are normally indirect objects. For example:

I don't know of anything.

'Of anything' is the verb complement.

I am deprived of my rights.

She deprived me of my rights.

Speaking of my childhood,…

Think of a book you love the most.

  • Of is used with some verbs such as 'build, make' to show the material of something. Look:

It is made of rocks.

It's built of bricks.

'Of' in Dialects

In the United States, of is used in telling time. For example:

It’s ten of two.

Ten minutes before two o'clock

Position in a Sentence

Of as a preposition comes before a noun or a pronoun, but remember that only nouns, adjectives, or verbs can precede it.

  • noun + of + noun/pronoun

The door of the car

Determiners, adjectives, or adverbs can be placed before nouns.

The black part of my bag

  • adjective + of + pronoun/noun

I'm proud of you.

She was the most famous of all the people.

  • verb + of + noun/pronoun

It's made of bricks.

It's built of wood.

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