Some words are so commonly used that they are part of our daily conversations. One of such is of. It is a preposition that has several uses and frequently features in speeches and writings.
For instance, of can indicate
- possession: He is the owner of the car.
- relationship: We met the King of Scotland.
- cause of an incident: He died of cancer.
- something from which a person or thing is relieved or delivered: He has been eased of his pain.
There are other uses of of, because it is a dynamic preposition. You, however, have to learn not to misuse it. Below are some of the challenges involved.
The problem with boast of
The verb boast has at least two different meanings. When the context of its use changes, the grammatical structure also changes. Unfortunately, many people do not realise this. When you use the word to mean showing off or bragging, you can use about – not of – with it:
The man is boasting of his father’s wealth. (Wrong)
The man is boasting about his father’s wealth. (Correct)
The footballer likes to boast of his financial status. (Wrong)
The footballer likes to boast about his financial status. (Correct)
So, you boast when you “talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about your achievements, possessions, or abilities”.
More important, perhaps, is when the verb means commands; when a person, place or thing possesses an asset or a feature that is a source of pride. It is wrong to use of with boasts here:
The school boasts of many qualified teachers. (Wrong)
The school boasts many qualified teachers. (Correct)
The family boasts of two mansions, three cars and several plots of land. (Wrong)
The family boasts two mansions, three cars and several plots of land. (Correct)
Davido boasts of several awards and many solid cars. (Wrong)
Davido boasts several awards and many solid cars. (Correct)
Dispose of or dispose off
While of is usually used where it is not supposed to be as in the above examples, some throw it away from where it should be in other contexts. An instance is in the phrase involving dispose, when we mean to get rid of unwanted materials. It is wrong to use offwith the word:
James, go and dispose off the refuse. (Wrong)
James, go and dispose of the refuse. (Correct)
I had to dispose off the tomato when it became rotten. (Wrong)
I had to dispose of the tomato when it became rotten. (Correct)
Let us consider another situation when of is unjustly displaced. What is your take on this expression?
He was still asleep as at the time the couple were fighting.
As at the time Prof. Osinbajo visited the President, there was much anxiety about his health.
The preposition – of – has been denied its rightful place in each of the sentences. Where do you think it should be? Which fellow preposition is taking its place? It is at. Although many of us use at in the contexts, of is preferred. It is in financial reporting that at may remain dominant as it may have become more or less a register. So, in general contexts, the statements are better as:
He was still asleep as of the time the men were fighting.
As of the time Prof Osinbajo visited the President, there was much anxiety about his health.
I am going to sign out on a phonological note. And I believe that up to 80 per cent of the members of this English Class will be unpleasantly surprised at the point I want to raise now. Many of us pronounce of regularly, but we do it in a wrong manner. Although it is spelt o and f, the f is among the sounds you call a voiced consonant. It is not voiceless as a lot of people think. It should be pronounced ‘ov’ and not ‘of’. Some people may think that this sounds odd, but that is the fact. The point should sound more interesting to candidates sitting for, or hoping to sit for, an examination such as the WASSCE or UTME. If, in the oral aspect, you have a question demanding the word with /f/ in the following, which will you choose?
A van (b) of (c) rough
Many will rush for option b because an f is conspicuously there. But that will be wrong, and that is part of the reason why, every year, many candidates fail English in the examinations. Although ‘f’ is in of, it is pronounced /v/. It is in rough that you have the consonant sound /f/.
Sorry if I am leaving you confused!