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Practice Group Report

At this month’s practice group our topic was ‘Prepositions’ and we started with a page of ‘Dingbats’ to decipher, shown above (answers below). As they all involve prepositions, this got us into the topic and we talked briefly about what prepositions are and why we, as Clean Language facilitators, might be interested in them…

A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun and the rest of a sentence. The word preposition literally means ‘in front of’ and generally speaking, a preposition comes in front of the noun to which it refers. Examples of simple prepositions are:

  • he went up the hill
  • darkest before the dawn
  • she had a glass of wine with her friend

There are also complex prepositions, consisting of two or three words, such as:

  • a preposition comes in front of a noun
  • she did it out of kindness
  • we had a great time except for the weather

We are interested in prepositions because:

(a) they are often used metaphorically, and because they are often small words, their metaphorical nature can easily go unnoticed

  • off colour
  • against the grain
  • an ear for music
  • don’t beat about the bush
  • above board
  • he had egg on his face

(b) they show relationships between things, and those relationships are often spatial, although they can be temporal (I will do that by next Tuesday) or causal (he was sacked on account of his laziness).

[They can also convey manner (I paid by cheque), accompaniment (you must go with him), support or opposition (I was against the plan), concession (she came despite her illness), possession (a bag with a purple handle) or exception (the car was a bargain apart from its rusty bonnet).]

And we are interested in spatial, temporal and causal relationships between things, because space, time and cause are fundamental and universal metaphors. Where things are in relation to one another and how they are related in time are important in being able to separate out different aspects of a landscape and so being able to model it effectively.

After the discussion, we split into groups of three: facilitator, client and observer. The observer tuned into the prepositions the client was using, making a note of them as they went along. The session was to be a normal clean coaching session, starting with the question, “What would you like to have happen?” - and with the facilitator directing the client’s attention to any prepositions that may be interesting for the client to explore. Everyone had a turn in all three roles.

A few things that happened in the groups I observed:

  • One client spoke of there being ‘something between me and getting tasks done’. When his attention was directed to the word ‘between’ a whole new metaphor opened up.
  • One client spoke about things being ‘clear in my mind, so I can give information out’. When the word ‘in’ was investigated, a metaphor of a roll of film emerged.
  • One client spoke about a physical problem and as the session went on, began to make a distinction between being curved over and curved up. Although in this case, the words over and up are not being used as prepositions, the client got a lot of useful information through noticing this distinction.

By focusing on prepositions, what did we discover?

  • It is amazing how many there are.
  • They can be critical in developing a landscape.
  • It is like going down the cracks between paving stones, and can open up a landscape in different directions you didn’t expect.
  • It stops you making assumptions.
  • Repetition of a particular preposition may indicate that there is a pattern that’s worth paying attention to.
  • Sometimes asking about a preposition doesn’t seem to lead anywhere fruitful at all.
  • If use of a preposition is accompanied by emphasis, or a particular gesture or voice tone, it’s likely to be worth paying attention to it.
  • Do not discount them!

Dingbat answers:

  • Man in the moon
  • You are under arrest
  • Get to the point
  • Hand over fist
  • Act out of character
  • On the bright side
  • Bags under the eyes
  • Quick on the draw

About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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