previous next

PREPOSITIONS. To; "I would to God;" "to-night"

To, in the phrase "I would to God," may mean "near," "in the sight of;" or there may be a meaning of motion: "I should desire (even carrying my desire) to God." In the phrase "He that is cruel to halves" (B. J. Disc. 759), to means, perhaps, "up to the limit of." Possibly, however, this phrase may be nothing but a corruption of the more correct idiom "Would God that," which is more common in our version of the Bible than "I would." The to may be a remnant and corruption of the inflection of "would," "wolde;" and the I may have been added for the supposed necessity of a nominative. Thus “Now wolde God that I might sleepen ever.” CHAUCER, Monke's Tale, 14746. So "thou wert best" is a corruption of "it were best for thee."

This theory is rendered the more probable because, as a rule, in Wickliffe's version of the Old Testament, "Wolde God" is found in the older MSS., and is altered into "we wolden" in the later. Thus Genesis xvi. 3; Numbers xx. 3; Joshua vii. 7; Judges ix. 29; 2 Kings v. 3 (Forshall and Madden, 1850). However, Chaucer has "I hoped to God" repeatedly.

To was used, however, without any notion of "motion toward the future" in to-night (last night).

“I did dream to-night.

; 2 Hen. VI. iii. 2. 31. So in E. E. "to year" for "this year," "to summer," &c. Perhaps the provincial "I will come the night, the morn," &c. is a corruption of this "to." It is, indeed, suggested by Mr. Morris that to is a corruption of the demonstrative. On the other hand, to in E. E. was "often used with a noun to form adverbs."--LAYAMON (Glossary). “He aras to pan mid-nihte,” LAYAMON, i. 324. is used for "he arose in the midnight."

Unto, like To, 185, is used for "in addition to:"

“Unto my mother's prayers I bend my knee.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: