Hi, first post here. I had a non-native speaker ask me about how to use "of" correctly. I thought for a second, and realized that I don't even know what part of speech of belongs in. It has always been something of an invisible word to me, something that I use without thinking at all. The question was, is it correct to say "search results" or "results of search," and why? How about list of search results vs. search results list? Compilation of search results lists vs. search results list compilation etc.. I couldn't think of any rules off the top of my head (or is that head top? : P).

So, two questions:
1) Grammatically speaking, what is "of"?
2) Can anyone recommend a good place to find usage guidelines?

Welcome to English Forums!

of is a preposition.

Two common ways of connecting nouns are by compounding or by the use of an "of" phrase.

search results or results of a/the search

There are no rules that force a choice of one or the other. You just have to take note of how a particular combination is made and adopt these generally accepted forms. Sometimes both ways are commonly used.

Hi Jim, thanks very much for the quick response. Anyways, sorry to bother your with such a basic question. It's odd... I had always thought of prepositions as words that provide relative location of something spatially or chronologically, so it never occurred to me that of would fall in that category. I blame the schools