I’ve asked question about the title’s, but I don’t see any coherence in the usage, that some of them sound natural and others don’t. For example, they said “Through the wood is the nearest way.” which is written in a grammar book sounded natural, and “Under the siege was the hardest time.” which is what I constructed on the logic I think I saw in the first sentence sounded unnatural. And here is what I think now, you can’t actually use this “prep+noun” as a normal noun all the time otherwise it sounds unnatural depending on the sense. What do you think?

  • Why do you say "you can’t actually use this “prep+noun” as a normal noun"? "Through the wood" is not a noun (nor is intended to be one) but a preposition phrase functioning as subject.
    – BillJ
    Oct 25, 2020 at 15:49
  • "through the wood" is fine. "He sawed through the wood very quickly". First meaning. "The best path to town is through the wood." It can also be expressed as: Through the wood is the best path to town." Second meaning as in "the woods", a place where trees grow. Finally, I will get through this. Of course, the semantics have to work.
    – Lambie
    Apr 6, 2021 at 13:21
  • "Under siege" is a usual phrase, "under the siege" is not, so it sounds a bit odd. I think the nearest thing to a rule is that a short prepositional phrase is better, and it should be clear, unambiguous, and easily parsed.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 4, 2023 at 11:04

1 Answer 1


I think you have to give up on the idea that any rule will explain the complexity of language 100% of the time. Some aspects conform to rules more than others, and exceptions must be expected in language. Prepositions are notoriously confusing for learners, precisely because they sometimes seem to lack any logic in how they are used by native speakers. There are useful guidelines, of course. But you can't expect a rule which delivers answers in all cases.

In short, Preposition + Noun only works if it actually makes sense. A phrase like "under the universe" is nonsense because the elements cannot be logically connected to make a coherent idea.

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