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'
- Of shows belonging of people or animals.
- Of shows something is a part of a whole.
- Of shows the category/type of something.
- Of shows association between two nouns.
- Of shows something has a relation to something else.
- Of adds a value that can be the age, size, etc.
- Of shows the content of something.
- Of shows the position of something.
- Of shows the material of something.
- Of adds a quality/an adjective to a noun.
- Of introduces an adjective complement.
- Of introduces a verb complement.
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:
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:
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:
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
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:
- Of is used to show a specific day in a month, a specific time in a period. For example:
In the time
- Of shows a specific number in a group of things or people. Look:
- 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:
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:
Here, 'the car' modifies 'door.'
'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:
'The books a few' is incorrect.
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 homelessness problem' is also correct.
'The negotiation skill' is also correct.
'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 protest oppression
the forests destruction
- Of establishes an association between two nouns and has a similar meaning to about. For example:
'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:
'Music love' or 'music's love' are incorrect.
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:
In this case, we can use noun adjuncts as well if the value is followed by a measure or a scale. For example:
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:
8. 'Of' Shows the Position
Of is used to show the position of something. Look:
Remember that when of is used to show the content or the position of something, we cannot use noun adjuncts. Look:
'A milk glass' is totally different from 'a glass of milk.' The former shows a specific type of glass but the latter shows a type of opaque glass that is typically white in color.
'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 paper table' is more common.
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:
An icy land
The wealthy country
An important subject
A courageous man
- Of is used to show the origin, nationality, or background of someone. For example:
A Parisian woman
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:
'Of you' is the adjective complement.
That was mean
It means 'he was mean that...'
That's very inconsiderate
'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
'His work' is an adjective complement and the reason for 'he is proud.'
I am fond
He is scared
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' is the verb complement.
I am deprived
She deprived me
- Of is used with some verbs such as 'build, make' to show the material of something. Look:
It is made
'Of' in Dialects
In the United States, of is used in telling time. For example:
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
Determiners, adjectives, or adverbs can be placed before nouns.
The black part
- adjective + of + pronoun/noun
She was the most famous
- verb + of + noun/pronoun
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