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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Turning this over to you

A recently published English translation ends a verse like this:
they do not know over what they stumble
How do you respond to that wording? If you revised it, what would your revision sound like?

Category:

4 Comments:

At Sun Jun 19, 09:00:00 AM, Anonymous Joe Missionary said...

Interesting. While it's becoming more popular to go ahead and end sentences with prepositions, it will be awhile before it's formally considered acceptable.

My suggestion? "...they do not know what is causing them to stumble." Just a novice's crack at it.

 
At Sun Jun 19, 09:39:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Yes, Joe, some formal proscriptions on language do take awhile to change, to catch up with actual usage by the majority of good speakers and writers. In this case, however, the "over" is actually not a preposition. It is a particle, tightly glued to "stumble". The two words "stumble over" form a phrasal verb and should not be separated. A few posts back I cited a Google link with a number of hits on the keywords "phrasal verbs."

Many prepositions can function, syntactically, as particles in phrasal verbs.

In this sentence,
"He pushed the book over the edge of the table"
"over" is functioning as a preposition.

In this sentence,
"He jumped over the fence"
"over" is functioning as a particle, part of the phrasal verb "jump over". The words of a phrasal verb should not be separated from each other.

You may have heard the famous phrase by none other than the great orator Sir Winston Churchill of English about the old fashioned proscription against prepositions at the end of sentences. (Remember that Churchill was speaking several decades ago, so the resistance against the artificial rule about prepositions was already well under way.) Churchill said, "That is something up with which I will not put." Of course, following the proscription, as Churchill did here, with tongue (or was it a cigar?) in cheek, created an ugly, unnatural English sentence. Furthermore, the words "put up with" are a phrasal verb, so the proscription should not even apply to them since "up" and "with" are not functioning here as prepositions.

English Bible translators need to have greater sensitivity to the actual usage rules of English, as those rules are used by great authors, creating great literature.

 
At Sun Jun 19, 02:46:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

They don't know what they're tripping over.

A number of linguists disagree with your analysis and don't think of "trip over" as a two-part verb. They think of "over" as an adverb.

 
At Sun Jun 19, 04:15:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Thanks for your comment, Jeremy. Yes, I found out today that I hadn't been as clear as I thought on what phrasal verbs are. I have since gone back to my books and cleared things up enough in my own mind that I could write a followup blog post (called Phrasal verbs) with a mea culpa. I appreciate your input. Have a good week.

 

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