15

I find it hard to understand what "to" means in this case:

"A Complete Guide to the Google Search Console"

I wonder if it means "about" or "towards". If so, why don't we use "of" to reflect the possession relationship?

22

The core spatial meanings of to are 'in the direction of' and 'moving towards and reaching'.

The needle on the compass points to the north.

The usher guided them to their seats.

Other non-spatial abstract and figurative meanings are derived therefrom.

In a book title such as A Guide to Woodworking, the noun guide is 'one who guides' or 'that which guides'; 'to guide someone' is to lead them somewhere; the complement, the prepositional phrase to woodworking, identifies the "destination" of that leading, which here is not a literal destination, a place, but a goal, which is understanding of the subject of woodworking.

The noun guide is used in this figurative manner so often that its figurative nature is almost entirely forgotten, and it comes to mean (especially to those who don't think much about the meanings of the words they use) "a book introducing a subject to learners". But at a very basic level, the learner is someone who doesn't know the way and needs to be shown the way.

10

After "guide" the most common prepositions are "to" and "for".

  • "To" refers to subjects.
  • "For" refers to those for whom it is intended.

"Of" when it stands after the word "guide" is intended only for possession. "A Complete Guide of the Google Search Console" means that the Google Search Console possesses it; has it.

  • 3
    I'd moderate that "of is intended only for possession" statement. Something like "A Complete Description of the Google Search Console" is correct, and does not denote that the Google Search Console possesses the description. But the difference is the word "guide" versus "description". It's not idiomatic to use "of" with "guide", as it is with "description". As such, other meanings (possession) come into play. – R.M. Aug 22 '17 at 15:42
  • @R.M. You are right! Yet, since we where discussing the word "guide" here I had thought that people would assume we where speaking about the use of prepositions with that word. – SovereignSun Aug 23 '17 at 6:40
0

"To" here could be seen as more or less short for "to understanding" or "to using." There is a kind of deliberate vagueness to it - a "Guide to" something can be a guide on "how to", "to use", "to understand" etc.

Prepositions can be a bit arbitrary (and not just in English) when they are not spatial. See the transition in recent decades of doing something "by accident" to "on accident", for example. There is no intrinsic reason for preferring either.

  • 1
    "A complete guide how to the Google Search Console" doesn't make any sense though. I don't think it's short for "how to" here, because the title isn't saying how to do something specific. I think it might be a bit confusing to explain it that way. The usage of almost any two letter word in English is challenging to explain :( – ColleenV parted ways Aug 23 '17 at 15:07
  • True, ColleenV. Maybe it's short for "to understanding/using" the Google Search Console. I think the larger point is the rather vague and arbitrary use of prepositions in abstract things like this. I will edit answer to reflect that. – GHolmes Aug 23 '17 at 16:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.