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What is a Preposition?

A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that the preposition introduces is called the object of the preposition. A preposition usually indicates the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence as in the following examples: The book is on the table. The book is beneath the table. The book is leaning against the table. The book is beside the table. She held the book over the table. She read the book during class. In each of the preceding sentences, a preposition locates the noun "book" in space or in time. A prepositional phrase is made up of the preposition, its object and any associated adjectives or adverbs. A prepositional phrase can function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. The most common prepositions are "about," "above," "across," "after," "against," "along," "among," "around," "at," "before," "behind," "below," "beneath," "beside," "between," "beyond," "but," "by," "despite," "down," "during," "except," "for," "from," "in," "inside," "into," "like," "near," "of," "off," "on," "onto," "out," "outside," "over," "past," "since," "through," "throughout," "till," "to," "toward," "under," "underneath," "until," "up," "upon," "with," "within," and "without." Each of the highlighted words in the following sentences is a preposition: The children climbed the mountain without fear. In this sentence, the preposition "without" introduces the noun "fear." The prepositional phrase "without fear" functions as an adverb describing how the children climbed. There was rejoicing throughout the land when the government was defeated. Here, the preposition "throughout" introduces the noun phrase "the land." The prepositional phrase acts as an adverb describing the location of the rejoicing. The spider crawled slowly along the banister. The preposition "along" introduces the noun phrase "the banister" and the prepositional phrase "along the banister" acts as an adverb, describing where the spider crawled. The dog is hiding under the porch because it knows it will be punished for chewing up a new pair of shoes.

Here the preposition "under" introduces the prepositional phrase "under the porch," which acts as an adverb modifying the compound verb "is hiding." The screenwriter searched for the manuscript he was certain was somewhere in his office. Similarly in this sentence, the preposition "in" introduces a prepositional phrase "in his office," which acts as an adverb describing the location of the missing papers.

Prepositions
Prepositions are short words (on, in, to) that usually stand in front of nouns (sometimes also in front of gerund verbs). Even advanced learners of English find prepositions difficult, as a 1:1 translation is usually not possible. One preposition in your native language might have several translations depending on the situation. There are hardly any rules as to when to use which preposition. The only way to learn prepositions is looking them up in a dictionary, reading a lot in English (literature) and learning useful phrases off by heart (study tips). The following table contains rules for some of the most frequently used prepositions in English:

Prepositions Time
English

Usage

Example

on

days of the week months / seasons time of day year after a certain period of time (when?) for night for weekend a certain point of time (when?) from a certain point of time (past till now) over a certain period of time (past

on Monday in August / in winter in the morning in 2006 in an hour at night at the weekend at half past nine since 1980 for 2 years

in

at

since for

English till now)


Usage

Example

ago before to past to / till / until till / until

a certain time in the past earlier than a certain point of time telling the time telling the time marking the beginning and end of a period of time in the sense of how long something is going to last in the sense of at the latest up to a certain time

2 years ago before 2004 ten to six (5:50) ten past six (6:10) from Monday to/till Friday

He is on holiday until Friday. I will be back by 6 oclock. By 11 o'clock, I had read five pages.

by

Prepositions Place (Position and Direction)


English

Usage room, building, street, town, country book, paper etc. car, taxi picture, world meaning next to, by an object for table for events place where you are to do something typical (watch a film, study, work) attached for a place with a river being on a surface for a certain side (left, right) for a floor in a house

Example in the kitchen, in London in the book in the car, in a taxi in the picture, in the world

in

at

at the door, at the station at the table at a concert, at the party at the cinema, at school, at work

on

the picture on the wall London lies on the Thames. on the table on the left on the first floor

English

Usage for public transport for television, radio left or right of somebody or something on the ground, lower than (or covered by) something else lower than something else but above ground covered by something else meaning more than getting to the other side (also across) overcoming an obstacle higher than something else, but not directly over it getting to the other side (also over) getting to the other side something with limits on top, bottom and the sides movement to person or building movement to a place or country for bed enter a room / a building movement in the direction of something (but not directly to it) movement to the top of something

Example on the bus, on a plane on TV, on the radio Jane is standing by / next to / beside the car. the bag is under the table

by, next to, beside under

below

the fish are below the surface

over

put a jacket over your shirt over 16 years of age walk over the bridge climb over the wall

above

a path above the lake

across

walk across the bridge swim across the lake

through

drive through the tunnel

to

go to the cinema go to London / Ireland go to bed

into

go into the kitchen / the house

towards

go 5 steps towards the house

onto

jump onto the table

English

Usage

Example

from

in the sense of where from

a flower from the garden

Other important Prepositions


English

Usage

Example

from of by

who gave it who/what does it belong to what does it show who made it walking or riding on horseback entering a public transport vehicle entering a car / Taxi leaving a public transport vehicle leaving a car / Taxi rise or fall of something travelling (other than walking or horseriding) for age for topics, meaning what about

a present from Jane a page of the book the picture of a palace a book by Mark Twain on foot, on horseback get on the bus get in the car get off the train get out of the taxi prices have risen by 10 percent by car, by bus she learned Russian at 45 we were talking about you

on

in off out of

by

at about