When people ask the ‘wh’ questions, I sometimes marvel at their sense of semantic approximations.
Some verbs are prepositional while others are not. By this I mean there are verbs which cannot stand alone in usage except you accompany them with prepositions. For example, you cannot just say, “John is suffering fever.” The better expression is, “John is suffering from fever.” Also, you cannot say, “I agree you.” It has to be “I agree with you.” You cannot say, “Kola is listening music.” It has to be “Kola is listening to music.”
When you ask questions, take note if such questions require prepositions or not. I call them prepositional questions. I observed that the presence or absence of prepositions in our questions can greatly affect the meaning. A typical example is the question, “What school are you?” This question means that the person you are asking the question is a school and you just want to know the kind of school that person is.
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This is not very semantically healthy as most of us take that question to mean, “What school are you in?” or “In what school are you?” In this regards, you are not playing with metaphors, a person cannot therefore be a school, he or she can only be IN a school.
Some people, when they want to know the room you are lodged in, they’d ask: What room are you? And I keep wondering how a person can be a room. You can only lodge/live/stay/be in a room; you cannot be the room. People do this with sports clubs too. You’d hear them ask: What club are you? And some people would even reply with, “I am Man U.” The question should be: “What club do you support?” Then the answer can be, “I am a fan of Man U.”
Nigerian tertiary institution students do this a lot. You’d hear them ask: “What level are you?” when what they mean to ask is “On what level are you?” or “What level are you on?” The person you are asking can only be on a level; he cannot be the level himself.
So when next you want to ask a question, ask yourself if that question is a prepositional question or not so as to avoid a twisted meaning.
Written by Omidire Idowu.