“Watch out! There’s a snake!”
Thank heavens for prepositions. Imagine not knowing where the threat was lurking. Prepositions describe the location or timing of something concerning something else.
Indeed, they play a vital role in our daily conversations with the people around us.
But what are prepositions exactly? Search no further, on this page we will discuss the 80+ prepositions and their uses. Please continue reading.
- Prepositions: What are They?
- What are the Different Prepositions and their Functions?
- 1. Prepositions of Time
- 2. Prepositions of Place
- 3. Prepositions of Spatial Relationships
- 4. Prepositions of Direction or Movement
- 5. Prepositions that Show Connection Between Idea
- 6. Prepositions of Agency
- 7. Prepositions of Instrument or Device
- 8. Prepositions of Manner
- 9. Prepositions of Reasons or Purpose
- 10. Prepositions of Origin
- 11. Prepositions of Possession
- 12. Prepositions of Measure
- What are the Grammar Rules for Prepositions?
- Are Prepositions Important?
- What are the Most Common Mistakes in the Use of Prepositions?
- Are Prepositions Challenging for Students?
- Additional FAQs – Prepositions in English Grammar
Prepositions: What are They?
A preposition is a word that links nouns, pronouns, or phrases to other words in a sentence.
Prepositions describe the position or chronology of something to something else.
They are short words that are frequently used in front of nouns and, in some cases, in front of gerund verbs.
In English, prepositions are quite idiomatic. Although there are some usage guidelines, fixed expressions govern many preposition usage. It is preferable to memorize the phrase rather than the individual preposition in these situations.
What are the Different Prepositions and their Functions?
In the English language, there are over 100 prepositions.
Furthermore, the possibilities for forming prepositional phrases (phrases that start with a preposition and end with a noun or pronoun) are limitless.
Remember that prepositions frequently express notions such as comparison, direction, place, purpose, source possession, and time as you read the examples and analyze the list below.
Note: Some prepositions have more than one function.
Here are the various functions of prepositions:
- Prepositions of Time
- Prepositions of Place
- Prepositions of Spatial Relationships
- Prepositions of Direction or Movement
- Prepositions that Show Connection Between Ideas
- Prepositions of Agency
- Prepositions of Instrument or Device
- Prepositions of Manner
- Prepositions of Reasons or Purpose
- Prepositions of Origin
- Prepositions of Possession
- Prepositions of Measure
1. Prepositions of Time
|For months, years, centuries, seasons, and times of day||in||“I first met my husband in 2002.”|
“It’s always hot in June.”
“I plan to visit my family in summer.”
“The telephone was invented in the 19th century.”
“I will go jogging in the afternoon.”
|For days, dates, and specific holiday days||on||“I don’t go to school on Sundays.”|
“Halloween is on October 31st.”
“My parents never miss giving me presents on my birthday.”
|For times, markers of exception, and festivals||at||“My dad leaves the house at 7 AM every morning.”|
“She works better at night.”
“They are always busy at Christmas time.”
|To express when something occurred, is occurring, or will occur in relation to something else||before||“Before you go, make sure to lock the door.” |
“We have to finish this before 3 PM.”
|To express when something occurred, is occurring, or will occur in relation to something else||after||“They will go home after watching the concert.” |
“Let’s have some drinks after work.”
|To state a beginning time and an ending time||from and to||“The lecture is from 8 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon.”|
“Winter lasts from December to March.”
|To specify a time that separates any two given periods||between||“They have to be there between 6:00 and 7:00 in the morning.”|
“The package is expected to arrive between the months of March and April.”
“The best time to shop is between Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
|To refer to a continuous event that started taking place in the past||since||“She has been living alone since she was a teenager.”|
|To refer to events that are simultaneous||during||“Flights are limited during the pandemic.”|
|To refer to a specific time action must be completed||by||“I should be at the airport by 5 in the morning.”|
|To state when an action will end at a specified time in the future||until||“I waited for your call until midnight.”|
|To state duration of time||for||“He lived in the US for ten years.”|
|To express a given time in relation to the succeeding hour of the day||to||“My phone says it’s ten minutes to five right now.”|
|To state how long an action is done||throughout||“The sale will last throughout the holiday season.”|
|To indicate a time that is not precise or exact||about||“It was about 7 in the evening when the accident happened.”|
|To indicate a time that is not precise or exact||around||“Expect me to be there at around 8 in the morning.”|
2. Prepositions of Place
|When talking about something with a flat surface||on||“The painting hangs on the wall.”|
“The books are scattered on the floor.”
|When anything is inside or within constrained borders.|
Anything, including a country, might be included
|in/inside||“Dan is in Germany visiting his relatives.” |
“I put the excess food in the fridge.”
“My things are inside my bag.”
“I do not have any liquids inside my suitcase.”
|When referring to anything at a certain/specific point||at||“I will meet him at the gate before he boards the plane.” |
“The dairy products are at the fourth lane.”
|When something is at the back of something||behind||“The boy is hiding behind the shelf.”|
|When something is situated before another||in front of you||“Pick up the trash in front of you.”|
|When something is lower than something/another||below||“She is waving at them from below the stairs.”|
|When something is lower than something/another||under||“The folder is under the pile of books.”|
|When something is higher than something||above||“One of my friends lives in a flat above mine.”|
|When something is higher than something||over||“There is a bee flying over your head.”|
|When something is not in a specific location but nearby||outside||“The kids are outside playing.”|
3. Prepositions of Spatial Relationships
|When something is in line with something long and wide or thin||along||“You can find the receipts along the counter.”|
|When something is located near another thing that is being mentioned||by||“The plates are by the cups and saucers at the counter.”|
|When something is located near another thing that is being mentioned||beside||“I want you to sit beside me at dinner.”|
|When something is located near another thing that is being mentioned||next to||“The lady sitting next to the city mayor is the widower.”|
|When something is farther from something||beyond||“That tollbooth is immediately beyond the bridge.”|
|When something is facing someone or on the other side||opposite||“The shop is opposite the drugstore.”|
|When something is on a lower level than another||beneath||“Just beneath the stairwell is a door.”|
|When something is beneath and covered by something else||underneath||“Underneath her coat, are three more layers of warmers.”|
4. Prepositions of Direction or Movement
|To emphasize that something is moving towards a specific goal||to||“She has gone to Paris for a vacation.” |
“The whole family is going to the beach.”
|To state that something is getting from one side to another||across||“She traveled across Asia for a month.” |
“The interviewer extended his hand across the table to shake the hand of the applicant.”
|To express that something is moving directly from something and out the other end||through||“I can see the streets through my window.” |
“The bullet had gone through his right hand.”
|To state that something is entering or peering into something||into||“She dove into the pool without hesitation.” |
“He was staring into the darkness with no emotions.”
|To state movement that ends up on top of something||onto||“The speaker stood and made his way onto the platform.” |
“Be careful when you step onto that ledge.”
|When a movement is closer or approaching something||towards|
*’Toward’ and ‘towards’ are interchangeable.
|“She ran towards the door and hugged her parents.”|
“He was driving towards the gate when he realized he left his glasses.”
|To state a movement that is higher than something else||above||“She shot the arrow way above her target.”|
|To state a movement that is higher than something else||over||“On our route to Grandma’s house, we’ll travel over some tough terrain.”|
|To state a movement that is higher than something else||up||“They went up the mountains to hunt.”|
|To state a movement on a straight ledge or line||along||“He was walking along the shore and saw a dead starfish.”|
|To state a movement in a circular pattern||around||“He was roaming around the house wasting his time.”|
|To state a movement that is farther from something||away from||“I had to stay away from the fire because it was getting bigger.”|
|To state a movement that is farther from something||out of||“We need to get out of here before somebody comes and sees us.”|
|To state a movement that is lower than something||beneath||“The snake slithered beneath the earth.”|
|To state a movement that is lower than something||down||“He immediately got down the stage and left.”|
|To state a movement originating from a specific place||from||“He traveled from Spain to Prague to meet some old friends.”|
|To indicate a movement alongside and beyond something||past||“On the highway, a car sped past a truck.|
5. Prepositions that Show Connection Between Idea
|To signify ‘concerning’ or ‘on the subject of’||about||“The meeting was about the new set of company policies.”|
|To mean something in oppose to something||against||“Our teams are going against each other in tonight’s match.”|
|To express the purpose of something or someone||as||“My mom works as a nurse in the city’s first-ever public hospital.”|
|To specify a direction or destination||to||“You can give that gift to her later this afternoon.”|
|To exclude something or someone||except||“I would love to catch up, except my break time is over.”|
|To express one’s someone’s thoughts and opinions||for||“This book is worth reading for me.”|
|To compare nouns||like||“The little boy looks like his grandfather when he was young.”|
|To show belonging or connection||of||“That scent reminds me of a very special moment in my life.”|
|To show belonging or connection||with||“She lives with her aunt, with their four cats.”|
6. Prepositions of Agency
A person or thing that has caused or is causing something to happen is described as a preposition of agency.
Sentences with prepositions of agency are often written in the passive voice and use the prepositions ‘by’ (for people) and ‘with’ (for things).
|by||Passive: “This purse was given by my sister.” |
Active: “My sister gave me this purse.”
Passive: “Her gown was designed by a renowned fashion icon.”
Active: “A renowned fashion icon designed her gown.”
|with||Passive: “The room was filled with sadness.” |
Active: Sadness filled the room.”
Passive: “Her dress was adorned with a lot of crystals.”
Active: A lot of crystals adorned her dress.”
7. Prepositions of Instrument or Device
These discuss specific technologies, machines, or gadgets, the preposition instrument or device is utilized.
‘With’ and ‘on’ are usually used to explain the use of machines and other devices, whereas ‘by’ is used to describe modes of transportation.
|by||“They chose to travel to Georgia by plane.” |
“You can reach the other island by ferry.”
|on||“May I research my homework on your phone?”|
“She edited her thesis on her mom’s laptop.”
|with||“She filled up the questionnaire with a pencil.” |
“He was able to open the door with an ATM card.”
8. Prepositions of Manner
These explain the way things happen or by the means things happen, just like prepositions of device.
The only difference is it does not include any machine or device.
|like||“He sings like a professional and everyone is amazed.” |
“Don’t act like a child.”
|with||“He answered the question with eagerness in his voice.”|
“They left the house with sadness in their eyes.”
9. Prepositions of Reasons or Purpose
The reason or purpose prepositions explains why something happened or will happen.
|because||“Classes were canceled because of the storm.”|
|for||“I did it for my family.”|
|from||“She knows from past incidents how to handle the situation.”|
|on account of||“He pressed charges against his neighbor on account of trespassing.”|
|through||“They were able to get their freedom through their bravery.”|
10. Prepositions of Origin
These identify a person or thing’s origin such as nationality, hometown/state, ethnicity, and the location where something was made or designed.
|from||“I am from Chicago originally, but I have been living in Colorado for a decade now.” |
“The new batch of computers are from the biggest software company in the country.”
|of||“Our new classmate is of Turkish descent.” |
“This toy is made of plastic.”
11. Prepositions of Possession
These indicate that something or someone is owned by something or someone.
|of||“This house is the property of my brother.” |
“The leg of the dog is wounded.”
|to||“That red car over there belongs to my friend.” |
“She gave the phone to her grandmother.”
|with||“The lady in black with the sunglasses is my mom.” |
“He met a girl with the most beautiful smile.”
12. Prepositions of Measure
These state the quantity of something with someone or something.
|by||“The textile shop sells its products by yards.” |
“They are entering the museum by batches.”
|of||“My mom bought a kilogram of potatoes for the salad.” |
“Half of the class was infected by the virus.”
What are the Grammar Rules for Prepositions?
Prepositions play a crucial role in English grammar.
Although English appears to be simple, even grammar nazis have difficulty answering prepositions questions.
As such, it is a must that you familiarize yourself with the different rules governing prepositions.
Let us look at some instances to see how different rules for prepositions and usage work.
1. Prepositions must have an object.
The presence of an object is required for prepositions. The preposition is just an adverb without an object.
An object is always placed after a preposition, whereas an adverb is never followed by an object.
“My mom is in the kitchen.”
Object: the kitchen
“Please get inside.”
‘Inside’ here is not a preposition but an adverb, because there is no object that comes after it.
2. Prepositions do not always come before its object.
This rule states that, in most cases, the preposition comes before the object, however, this is not always the case.
Before a noun or a pronoun, there should be a preposition.
“We will see you in December.”
It is a common English grammar fallacy that you cannot end a sentence with a preposition.
However, that is not true at times.
“Who were you with?”
Object: Related to the pronoun ‘who’
3. When a preposition is followed by a pronoun, it should be in object form.
A ‘prepositional object’ is a noun or pronoun that comes after a preposition.
If it is a pronoun, use the objective form (me, her, them) rather than the subjective form (I, she, they).
“He bought a gift for her.”
Object: her (object form)
4. Prepositions do not have a specific form.
Prepositions, in particular, do not have a formal structure.
The majority of prepositions are one word, however complex prepositions are two to three words long.
- one-word prepositions: in, on, from
- complex prepositions: away from, on account of, next to
5. ‘To’ as a preposition and ‘to’ as an infinitive are not the same.
If you are confused, always remember that ‘to’ as an infinitive comes before a verb (as in ‘to eat’, ‘to dance’ ‘to swim’).
To as a preposition always has an object (‘to me’, ‘to the park’, ‘to London’).
Do not interchange the function of the two.
‘To’ as a preposition:
- “She gave her old clothes to her younger sister.” (her younger sister – object)
- “He plans to go to the beach this weekend.” (the beach – object)
‘To’ as an infinitive:
- “I love to fish on weekends.” (fish – verb)
- “My friends forced me to go jogging with them.” (go – verb)
6. A preposition’s object cannot be a verb.
The Golden Rule of Preposition is this: the preposition ‘to’ can sometimes be followed by phrases that appear to be verbs, but a verb can never be the object of a preposition.
- “I love to bake.”
- “An oven is for baking.”
‘Bake’ and ‘baking’ are not verbs in the examples above. ‘To bake’ is part of the infinitive in the first example, and it happens if a verb is employed as an adverb, adjective, or noun.
Baking is not an action that is performed here, but rather something that a person enjoys doing.
‘Baking’, in the second example, is a gerund, which is essentially a noun but is created from a verb.
The oven is inextricably linked to her baking. In this sentence, no one is actually baking.
Are Prepositions Important?
Prepositions are a challenge for many English learners. The first thing we need to understand about prepositions is how they are used both in speaking and writing.
Using the wrong prepositions can entirely shift the context of a phrase, causing complications for the speaker. As a result, proper preposition usage in English is critical.
In the context of tossing a ball, for example, knowing the difference between ‘to’ and ‘at’ could save your life.
When someone asks, “Can I throw this ball to you?” they are expecting you to be prepared to catch the ball.
On the other hand, when someone asks, “Can I throw the ball at you?”, they are implying that they want to hit you with it. Prepare yourself as well.
Here is the difference:
“Can I throw this ball to you?”
“Sure, I’ll catch it.”
“Can I throw this ball at you?”
“Please don’t, it could hurt me.”
Another example is this one. Take note of the prepositions ‘about’ and ‘except’.
- “Everything about the hotel is fantastic.”
- “Okay, we’re going to book the same hotel when we go there.”
- “Everything except the hotel is fantastic.”
- “Oh, really? Well, I guess I should try to look for another hotel when we go there.”
Notice how a preposition can change the meaning of the sentence. So, as you can see, using the correct preposition is extremely crucial in expressing your thoughts and ideas.
With many prepositions out there, you have to exert any effort to learn them and how they should be used.
Otherwise, misunderstanding may occur and that is something you do not want.
What are the Most Common Mistakes in the Use of Prepositions?
Prepositions are tricky little beasts. There are a lot of them and their rules can be extremely perplexing!
Because there are so many possible prepositions, picking the right one might sometimes be influenced by the word that comes before it. It may also rely on what comes after the preposition in other circumstances.
For your reference, here are the most common mistakes when it comes to using prepositions:
1. Depending on the situation, use ‘with’ or ‘about’ after the word ‘upset’.
We use ‘about’ + something and ‘with’ + someone.
|“I am upset with the flight being delayed.”||“I am upset about the flight being delayed.”|
|“She was upset about him for being rude.”||“She was upset with him for being rude.”|
2. The correct usage for ‘in’ and ‘at’ may differ depending on the time of day.
We use ‘in the’ with ‘morning’, ‘afternoon’, and ‘evening’.
When talking about the night, though, we commonly use ‘at’.
|“I take my vitamins at the morning.”||“I take my vitamins in the morning.”|
|“I have a habit of writing in my journal before I go to sleep in night.”||“I have a habit of writing in my journal before I go to sleep at night.”|
3. When talking about journeys, you can use the preposition ‘to’.
However, use the words ‘in’ or ‘at’ to signify reaching a destination when we use the term ‘arrive’.
For cities, countries, and other major areas, use ‘in’.
For specific locations (e.g., a library, a bar, or someone’s home), use ‘at’.
|“She arrived at Indonesia before midnight.”||“She arrived in Indonesia before midnight.”|
|“They arrived in the venue just minutes before the program started.”||“They arrived at the venue just minutes before the program started.”|
4. Depending on the situation, employ different prepositions when referring to a time or date.
When referring to a specific time of day, use ‘at’.
Meanwhile, use ‘on’ to refer to a certain day or date. The right preposition for a month or year is ‘in’.
|“The concert starts in 8 PM.”||“The concert starts at 8 PM.”|
|“Let’s watch a movie at Saturday.”||“Let’s watch a movie on Saturday.”|
|“School ends on June.”||“School ends in June.”|
5. When using auxiliary verbs like ‘should’ or ‘must’, avoid using the preposition ‘of’.
Instead, use the verb ‘have’, which sounds similar to ‘of’ when uttered.
|“You should of called me earlier.”||“You should have called me earlier.”|
|“I must of forgotten to turn off the tv.”||“I must have forgotten to turn off the tv.”|
6. Use the preposition ‘for’ to refer to a period of time when discussing how long something has been going on.
When referring to a certain time period, use ‘since’.
The difference is that the first relates to a unit of time, whereas the second refers to a specific point in time when the activity started.
|“She has been crying since an hour.”||“She has been crying for an hour.”|
|“They have been waiting for the bus for 2 PM.”||“They have been waiting for the bus since 2 PM.”|
7. Because ‘talking’ and ‘discussing’ are comparable activities, many people use them interchangeably.
However, the word ‘about’ should only be used after ‘talking’.
|“They were discussing about the project proposals.”||“They were discussing the project proposals.”|
|“I am talking about the plans for the party tonight.”||“I am talking about the plans for the party tonight.”|
8. It is correct to mention that one person is married ‘to’ (not ‘with’) another when describing someone’s marital status.
|“Tom is married with Jane.”||“Tom is married to Jane.”|
9. Another difficulty for non-natives is whether or not to put a preposition between ‘ask’ and the name of the person to whom the verb refers.
|“I asked to Sue what time we should get going.”||“I asked Sue what time we should get going.”|
Are Prepositions Challenging for Students?
It is extremely difficult to use prepositions effectively in English, and they cause a slew of issues for teachers and students alike.
To begin with, most prepositions, especially the most popular ones, have many purposes.
Depending on whose dictionary you consult, the preposition ‘at’ has as many as 18 different functions.
As vocabulary words, prepositions can be difficult to grasp on their own, and it is not uncommon for English learners to ask teachers to explain what a term like ‘at’ means.
Second, there is no rational way to determine which preposition is appropriate for a given noun, verb, or adjective.
Because it is not always possible to predict the correct preposition, the expression must be mastered in its whole.
The problem is compounded when a single vocabulary item, again, the most commonly used ones, flirts with a range of prepositions, prolonging the teaching-learning activities beyond what we might expect.
Finally, a learner’s native language can obstruct the learning process and prevent proper English usage.
Prepositional errors are possibly the most egregious example of this.
Some English formulations, for example, do not contain a preposition, although the same expression in another language does, and vice versa.
Additional FAQs – Prepositions in English Grammar
Can you End a Sentence with a Preposition?
Ending a statement with a preposition is not incorrect, but it is less professional.
It is absolutely okay in emails, text messages, and notes to friends.
If you are writing a research paper or presenting a business proposal, though, avoid using prepositions at the end of sentences.
Why Should I Care About Prepositions?
While prepositions are few in number, they are crucial because they serve as structural markers in sentences, indicating particular relationships between people, objects, and places.
Without prepositions, misunderstanding, confusion, and miscommunication may arise.
How Do I Use Prepositions Correctly?
Prepositions are always used to illustrate the relationship between a noun or phrase and anything else.
When using a preposition, it must always be followed by a noun and before by the subject and verb. A verb should never be used after it.
Additional Reading — ENGLISH GRAMMAR
- What is British English?
- What is American English?
- What is Canadian English?
- What is Australian English?
- 30+ Tips to Speak English Without Grammar Mistakes
- What Are Idioms?
- What Are Verbs?
- What Are Nouns?
- What Are Adjectives?
- What Are Pronouns?
- What Are Adverbs?
- What Are Tenses?
- What Are Punctuation Marks?
- What Are Loanwords?
- What are Phrasal Verbs?
- What Are Collocations?
- What Are Conjunctions?
- What are Modals?
- What is Subject-Verb Agreement?
- What Are Sentence Structures?
- What Are Sentence Parts?
- What are Sentence Functions?
- What Are Clauses?
- What are the Common Slang Words in the English Language?
- What are the Commonly Misspelled Words in English?