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I'm not a native speaker, and the uses of prepositions are driving me crazy.

I saw a post with the phrase "you are the champion of my heart" on it. I thought it should be "the champion in my heart", "of my heart" sounds like you have several hearts, and one of them is your champion... Then I googled it, found out this "of my hearts" usage got more results than "in". The same question goes for "Secret of my heart" and "secret in my heart".

I read some grammar books, there were a lot of examples for prepositions, but still cannot cover all of the situations. Are there any rules about how to use prepositions correctly or I just have to remember every case I've met?

Thank you.

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First, "of my heart" simply means that something is associated with your emotions:

You are the love of my heart.

Also, when we use words like "heart" or "head" metaphorically, prepositions may not mean what you think they mean. Consider:

You really got in my head for a minute there.

That simply means, "You affected my thoughts," and (thankfully) has nothing to do with you shrinking and climbing into my skull.

As for "of my heart" vs. "in my heart", here's one way I might characterize the two:

  • of my heart can be used with the definite article, to indicate preeminent personal feelings
  • in my heart can be used with the indefinite article, to project a role

For example:

You are a diva in my heart. (means: in my heart, I regard you as a diva)
You are the diva of my heart. (means: in my heart, I regard you as the diva)

So, back to what you said:

"of my heart" sounds like you have several hearts, and one of them is your champion...

Instead:

the champion of my heart

means something more like:

there may be several people who could be my champion, but, in my heart, you are my true champion


Disclaimer: I wouldn't regard this as a hard-and-fast rule with zero exceptions. As was mentioned, prepositions are very tricky. Macmillan lists more than 20 possible usages of the word of, and when you combine those with metaphorical words such as head, heart or skin, some preposition-noun combinations will indeed be idiomatic, and need to be learned one-by-one (such as, "She really gets under my skin.")

  • Thanks for the answer. Do you mean "The champion in my hearts" is not correct, it should be "(A) champion in my heart"? – Liam Jun 25 '14 at 13:05
  • I can't say if five words put together is "correct" or not; it depends on the context. I'd be inclined to think that "the champion in our hearts" would probably be better, since the plural hearts suggests more than one person. But who knows? In children's literature, for example, an earthworm might say, "You saved me from the mean old robin! You are the champion in my hearts." – J.R. Jun 26 '14 at 0:16
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To make secret thing clear, take a look...

"The secret of my heart is my heart has one extra valve! I have not disclosed this to anyone! OVER

"I will keep the secret in my heart that you unknowingly murdered someone. Don't worry, I'll carry this to my grave."

In this case, something of the heart means it's related to the heart whereas in the heart defines heart as a place.

As far as the sentence you are the champion of my heart is concerend, it depends on the context. It may mean that he won the heart of yours. Now that win may come by any means.

Or it may mean that someone, being the champion of your heart, is protecting you. He fights for you and saves you from difficulties. In other words, if the champion of your heart is there, you are taken care of. You fully trust him as he's the champion of your heart.

There's a song which refers to the latter meaning. Pasting a portion from there

I had a dream about us
And the first night we met
Sipping wine in the moonlight
There on your backporch steps

First time I'd seen the ocean
And smelled the salty sea
And the atmosphere around us
Was thick as the humidity

Chorus:

And you've just got to know
You're the Champion of my heart
Your warm and loving soul
Guides me safely thru the dark
Your gentleness gives reason
To trust in all you do
And yes you are
The Champion of my heart

A side but good note: Don't rely on the number of Google results.

  • Champion could well mean something else entirely here, especially since my heart doesn't lend itself well to being a contest. Champion of my heart might mean someone who fights for my feelings - check the definitions of champion. – Esoteric Screen Name Jun 25 '14 at 6:20
  • @EsotericScreenName I did not want to get into the way of winning the heart. Anyway, to avoid ambiguity, I am editing the answer. – Maulik V Jun 25 '14 at 7:17
  • The included song lyrics are about protecting the heart and its feelings (e.g. from darkness) and not winning it (in any sense). – Esoteric Screen Name Jun 25 '14 at 7:49
  • Thanks for the answer. Interesting samples :). So, does it mean "champion of my heart" and "champion in my heart" is little difference in use? For example, someone lost the game, you can either say "you are the champion in my heart" or "you are the champion of my heart"? – Liam Jun 25 '14 at 7:56
  • @Liam In such case, I guess we use to. So what if you have lost; to my heart, you are, and will be the champion. – Maulik V Jun 25 '14 at 9:01

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