Prepositional Idioms? Calm down!

A prepositional idiom consists of a verb followed by a preposition, but unlike an ordinary prepositional phrase, it forms an expression with a nonliteral or idiomatic meaning. Some grammarians consider the prepositional idiom a type of a phrasal verb, others call it the phrasal verb itself, and still others call it a verb phrase. Anyway we call it, however, the distinguishing characteristic of a prepositional idiom is that its meaning is largely determined by the preposition that comes after the verb; in fact, a single verb can yield as many as five or many more meanings depending on the preposition that comes after it.

For example, the verb “back,” which literally means “to support by material or moral assistance” or “to cause to go back or in reverse,” yields at least nine different meanings when followed by different prepositions, as follows:

back down – cease defending one’s position in a debate or argument.
Example: He’s not the type who’ll back down from a fight because of veiled threats.

back away – get out from a previous commitment.
Example: The consortium partner backed away from the deal for undisclosed reasons.

back out – renege from a promise or deal.
Example: The boxer backed out from the title fight due to disagreements over the prize money.

back up (1) – provide support to someone or something.
Example:  The reporter was asked to back up his exposé with documentary evidence.

back up (2) – move backwards or in reverse.
Example: She backed up the car so fast that it hit the lamppost.

back out of – not keep a promise or deal.
Example:  His lawyer backed out of the case the day before the trial.

back into – hit something while moving backwards.
Example: She backed into a lamppost while getting out of the parking slot.

back off – escape or run away from something.
Example: The police told the demonstrators to back off or face dispersal.

back of – unspoken self-knowledge about the outcome of something
Example: He decided to fight, but back of his mind he knew that it was a losing battle.

The SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is owned, published, and developed by the College Board, a not-for-profit organization in the United States. It was formerly developed, published, and scored by the Educational Testing Service which still administers the exam. The test is intended to assess a student’s readiness for college. It was first introduced in 1926, and its name and scoring have changed several times. It was first called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then the Scholastic Assessment Test, but now SAT does not stand for anything.

The current SAT Reasoning Test, introduced in 2005, takes three hours and forty-five minutes to finish, and costs $49 ($75 International), excluding late fees. Possible scores range from 600 to 2400, combining test results from three 800-point sections (Mathematics, Critical Reading, and Writing).

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