Inflected preposition

In linguistics, an inflected preposition is a type of word that occurs in some languages, that corresponds to the combination of a preposition and a personal pronoun. For instance, the Welsh word iddo (/ɪðɔ/) is an inflected form of the preposition i meaning "to/for him"; it would not be grammatically correct to say *i fe.

Terminology and analysis

There are many different names for inflected prepositions, including conjugated preposition, pronominal preposition, prepositional pronoun, and suffixed pronoun.[1] (But note that the term prepositional pronoun also has a different sense, for which see Prepositional pronoun.)

Historically, inflected prepositions can develop from the contraction of a preposition with a personal pronoun; however, they are commonly reanalysed as inflected words by native speakers and by traditional grammar.

Language change over time can obscure the similarity between the conjugated preposition and the preposition-pronoun combination. For example, in Scottish Gaelic "with" is le /lɛ/ and "him" is e /ɛ/, but "with him" is leis /leʃ/.


Insular Celtic

All Insular Celtic languages have inflected prepositions; these languages include Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton.

Scottish Gaelic

The following table shows the inflected forms of the preposition aig (at).

Singular Plural
First Person agam againn
Second Person agad agaibh
Third Person Masculine aige aca
Feminine aice


The following table shows the colloquial inflected forms of the preposition i (to/for). The optional pronouns that follow the inflected forms are given in parentheses.

Singular Plural
First Person imi, i mi, ifi, i fi ini, i ni, inni
Second Person iti, i ti ichi, i chi
Third Person Masculine iddo (fe/fo) iddyn (nhw)
Feminine iddi (hi)

The sentence Mae hi wedi ei roi iddo fo (she has given it to him) required the inflected form of i, mae hi wedi ei roi i fo is not grammatically correct.

The following table gives the inflected colloquial forms of the preposition o (of/from). The optional pronouns that follow the inflected forms are given in parentheses.

Singular Plural
First Person ohonof (i), ohono (i) ohonon (ni)
Second Person ohonot (ti) ohonoch (chi)
Third Person Masculine ohono (fe/fo) ohonyn (nhw)
Feminine ohoni (hi)


Inflected prepositions are found in many Semitic languages, including Hebrew,[2] Arabic, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Amharic.

For example, the Arabic preposition على (/ʕalaː) on inflects as علَيَّ (/ʕalajːa/) on me, علَيْكَ) (/ʕalajka/) on you (m.s.), علَيْهِ (/ʕalajhi/) on him, etc.

Iranic languages

Some Iranic languages, including Persian, have developed inflected prepositions. For example, Persian az u ("from him/her") becomes azaš; bā šomā ("with you", pl.) becomes bāhātun. These forms are non-obligatory and are used especially in the colloquial register, though some of them are also possible in the standard language. As the two examples show, they are not mere contractions but a system of inflectional endings attached to the preposition.

Other languages

Languages that do not have full paradigms of inflected prepositions may nonetheless allow contraction of prepositions and pronouns to a more limited extent.

In formal registers of Polish, a handful of common prepositions allow amalgamated forms with third-person pronouns: na niego ("on him/it") → nań.[3] However, these contracted forms are very archaic and rarely heard in daily speech.

In many Iberian Romance languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese, the preposition con or com ("with") has special forms incorporating certain pronouns (depending on the language). For example, in Spanish and Asturian conmigo means "with me". Historically, this developed from the Latin use of cum ("with") after a pronoun, as in mecum ("with me").

Inflected postpositions

As languages can make use of postpositions rather than prepositions, so do some languages have inflected postpositions. Bororo, an indigenous language of Brazil, uses postpositions in all contexts: tori ji "about the mountains". When these modify a pronoun rather than a full noun, the phrase contracts into an inflected postposition[4] (and therefore looks like a pronominal prefix, rather than a suffix as in the examples above): bagai "for", i-wagai "for me".

See also


  1. Stalmaszczyk, Piotr (2007). "Prepositional Possessive Constructions in Celtic Languages and Celtic Englishes". The Celtic Languages in Contact: Papers from the Workshop within the Framework of the XIII International Conference of Celtic Studies, Bonn, 26–27 July 2007.
  2. Glinert, Lewis. Modern Hebrew: An Essential Grammar (2nd ed.). Routledge UK. pp. 41–44. ISBN 0-415-10190-5.
  3. Swan, Oscar E. (2002). A Grammar of Contemporary Polish. Bloomington, IN: Slavica. ISBN 0-89357-296-9.
  4. Crowell, Thomas Harris (1979). A Grammar of Bororo. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International.
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