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The Definitions of Preposition
- A preposition is a word that indicates the relationship between a noun and the other words of a sentence.
- Prepositions are a category of words that are placed before nouns and pronouns to create phrases that modify nouns, verbs, or adjectives.
- A preposition is a word or group of words used before a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, time, place, location, spatial relationships, or to introduce an object. Some examples of prepositions are words like "in," "at," "on," "of," and "to."
- A preposition is a word or phrase that connects a noun or pronoun to a verb or adjective in a sentence.
- Prepositions indicate relationships between other words in a sentence.
- Preposition is a word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause, as in ‘the man on the platform’, ‘she arrived after dinner’, ‘what did you do it for?’.
- Preposition is a word or group of words that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, location, or time, or to introduce an object
- A preposition is a part of speech that shows the relation of a noun or pronoun to another word.
A preposition is a word used to link nouns, pronouns, or phrases to other words within a sentence. They act to connect the people, objects, time and locations of a sentence. Prepositions are usually short words, and they are normally placed directly in front of nouns. In some cases, you’ll find prepositions in front of gerund verbs.
Types of Prepositions
1. Prepositions of Time
Basic examples of time prepositions include: at, on, in, before and after. They are used to help indicate when something happened, happens or will happen. It can get a little confusing though, as many different prepositions can be used.
Prepositions of time examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
- I was born on July 4th, 1982.
- I was born in 1982.
- I was born at exactly 2am.
- I was born two minutes before my twin brother.
- I was born after the Great War ended.
The above makes it seem quite difficult, with five different prepositions used to indicate when something happened. However, there is a set of guidelines that can help decide which preposition to use:
For years, months, seasons, centuries and times of day, use the preposition in:
- I first met John in 1987.
- It’s always cold in January
- Easter falls in spring each year.
- The Second World War occurred in the 20th century.
- We eat breakfast in the morning.
For days, dates and specific holiday days, use the preposition on.
- We go to school on Mondays, but not on Sunday
- Christmas is on December 25th.
- Buy me a present on my birthday.
For times, indicators of exception and festivals, use the preposition at:
- Families often argue at Christmas time.
- I work faster at night.
- Her shift finished at 7pm.
Before and after should be much easier to understand than the other examples of prepositions of time. Both are used to explain when something happened, happens or will happen, but specifically in relation to another thing.
- Before I discovered this bar, I used to go straight home after work.
- We will not leave before 3pm.
- David comes before Bryan in the line, but after Louise.
Other prepositions of time could include: During, about, around, until and throughout.
- The concert will be staged throughout the month of May.
- I learned how to ski during the holidays.
- He usually arrives around 3pm.
- It was about six in the morning when we made it to bed.
- The store is open until midnight.
2. Prepositions of Place
To confuse matters a bit, the most common prepositions to indicate time – on, at, in – are also the most common prepositions to indicate position. However, the rules are a little clearer as place prepositions are a more rigid concept than time prepositions.
Prepositions of place examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
- The cat is on the table.
- The dogs are in the kennel.
- We can meet at the crossroads.
The guidelines can be broken down as follows:
On is used when referring to something with a surface:
- The sculpture hangs on the wall.
- The images are on the page.
- The specials are on the menu, which is on the table.
In is used when referring to something that is inside or within confined boundaries. This could be anything, even a country:
- Jim is in France, visiting his aunt in the hospital.
- The whiskey is in the jar in the fridge.
- The girls play in the garden.
At is used when referring to something at a specific point:
- The boys are at the entrance at the movie theater.
- He stood at the bus stop at the corner of Water and High streets.
- We will meet at the airport.
Lot’s of other prepositions of place, such as under, over, inside, outside, above and below are used in English. There is, however, a lot less confusion as they refer to rigid positions rather than abstract ones.
- The cat is under the table.
- Put the sandwich over there.
- The key is locked inside the car.
- They stepped outside the house.
- Major is ranked above corporal.
- He is waving at you from below the stairs.
3. Prepositions of Movement
Prepositions of movement are quite easy to understand as they are less abstract than prepositions of place and time. Essentially, they describe how something or someone moves from one place to another. The most commonly used preposition of movement is to, which usually serves to highlight that there is movement towards a specific destination.
Prepositions of movement examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
- He has gone on vacation to France.
- She went to the bowling alley every Friday last summer.
- I will go to bed when I am tired.
- They will go to the zoo if they finish their errands.
Other more specific prepositions of movement include: through, across, off, down and into. These prepositions can sometimes get mixed up with others. While they are similar, they have individual meanings that add context to the movement.
Across refers to moving from one side to another.
- Mike travelled across America on his motorcycle.
- Rebecca and Judi are swimming across the lake.
Through refers to moving directly inside something and out the other end.
- The bullet Ben shot went through the window.
- The train passes through the tunnel.
Into refers to entering or looking inside something.
- James went into the room.
- They stare into the darkness.
Up, over, down, past and around indicate directions of movement:
- Jack went up the hill.
- Jill came tumbling down after.
- We will travel over rough terrain on our way to Grandma’s house.
- The horse runs around the track all morning.
- A car zoomed past a truck on the highway
Prepositions with Nouns
There are lots of different nouns that carry specific prepositions to consolidate their meaning. These are called dependent prepositions. Again, there isn’t a set rule that says a particular type of noun will take a dependent preposition, although they normally follow the noun. Moreover, there are many possible combinations. Essentially, it’s case of familiarizing yourself with the different possibilities of nouns and dependent prepositions. Examples:
- He displayed cruelty towards his dog.
- She had knowledge of physics.
- The trouble with Jack.
- 21 is the age at which you are allowed to drink.
- Bolt made another attempt at the world record.
- The police held an inquiry into the murder.
Prepositions with Verbs
Prepositional verbs – the phrasal combinations of verbs and prepositions – are important parts of speech. The prepositions again act as links between the verb and noun or gerund, giving extra meaning to the sentence. The prepositions most commonly used with verbs are: to, for, about, of, in, at and from. The good news is that these will always come after the verb in the sentence. However, it should also be noted that the prepositional verbs can have slightly different meaning compared to the original verb. For example, to relate a story simply means to tell a story, to relate to a story means you identify with it, find some personally meaning in that story.
Verb + to:
- He admitted to the charge.
- I go to Vancouver on vacation twice a year.
- William can relate to the character in the play.
Verb + for:
- He must apologize for his actions.
- We searched for ages before we found the perfect apartment.
- I provide for my family by working two jobs.
Verb + with:
- I don’t agree with your claim.
- The lawyer said he will meet with your representatives.
- They began with a quick warm-up.
Verb + of:
- I dream of a better life.
- Have you heard of Shakespeare?
- The bread consists of dough, raisins and a little honey.
Verb + in:
- Does Rick believe in miracles?
- Fallon lives in New York.
- The bus accident resulted in my being late to work.
Verb + at
- We arrived at our destination.
- Ilene excels at singing.
- Will the baby smile at her mother?
Verb + on:
- We should really concentrate on our studies now.
- Helen insisted on Brenda’s company.
- Morris experimented on some canvas.
Verb + from:
- Since turning 80, she suffers from lapses in concentration.
- Dad retired from the navy in the 1970s.
- Billy Bob, please refrain from doing that.
Prepositions with Adjectives
Prepositions can form phrases with adjectives to give further context to the action, emotion or thing the adjective is describing. Like verbs and nouns, adjectives can be followed by: to, about, In, for, with, at and by.
- I am happily married to David.
- Ellie is crazy about this movie.
- Michelle is interested in politics.
- We are sorry for your loss.
- Jane will be delighted with her results.
- Is he still angry at the world?
- The entire room was astonished by the election results.
There can sometimes be a pattern in deciding which prepositions go with adjectives, for example, when adjectives have the same or very similar meaning to each other, they might take the same preposition:
- Frightened of, afraid of, scared of, terrified of
Indeed, when adjectives have opposite meaning they might also take the same preposition:
- Good at, great at, superb at, wonderful at
- Bad at, terrible at, woeful at, inept at
There are always many exceptions to the above, but it can help that there seems to be some consistency when adjectives have the same meaning or opposite meaning.
Nevertheless, perhaps a more general rule is that English speakers simply need to learn which prepositions go with which adjectives, as meaning can change significantly by using a different preposition.
- I am good at sports means I have some athletic talent.
- The nurse was good to my mother means she took care of her and was nice, kind, and helpful.
- I am good with animals means I get along with them and handle them well.
- Swimming is good for your health.
- That was good of you to come means you were begin nice and good to visit.
- My little brother is good inside (his body) means even though you can’t see how he thinks and feels, he is good. Even if his behavior is bad.
- The blueberry jam will be good on toast.
A preposition consists of a word or a group of words that demonstrates the relationship between a noun or a pronoun with another word in the sentence.
8 Types of Prepositions
1. PREPOSITIONS OF TIME
Prepositions of time usually indicate when something happens, happened or will happen in the future.
There are several prepositions of time such as, at, on, in, before, during and after.
Here are several examples of prepositions of time!
- David was born on August 8, 2001.
- David was born at 4am in the morning.
- David was born during the holidays of 2001.
- David was born after our hottest summer.
- David was born in 2001.
- David was born before our trip to England.
Note: There are some rules that will help you place the right preposition in the right place when it comes to time.
Rule 1 – use in when you refer to years, months, seasons, centuries and time of day.
For example: It is always hot in January.
Rule 2 – use on when you refer to days, dates and specific holidays.
For example: We go to church on Sunday.
Rule 3 – use at when you refer to time exceptions and festivals.
For example: I work best at night.
2. PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE
Prepositions of place usually indicate position and they are easily discernible. The three most common prepositions of place are on, at or in.
What makes this interesting is that these three prepositions are used to indicate both time and place. But as I said before, they are easily discernible.
Here are several examples of prepositions of place!
- The cup is on the kitchen table.
- The cups are in the kitchen cupboard.
- We like the cups at the supermarket.
Note: There are some rules that will help you identify the right preposition to use for location.
Rule 1 – when you refer to something with a surface, use the preposition on.
Here are several examples!
- The clock hangs on the wall.
- The names of the deceased are on the tombstones.
- The books are on the desk in the study.
- The writing on the wall had to be removed.
Rule 2 – when you refer to something inside or confined, use the preposition in.
Here are several examples!
- The manual is in the cupboard draw in the shed.
- The girls are in the shopping mall buying Christmas presents.
- The bolts are in the jar in the shed.
- David left the book in the car.
Rule 3 – when you refer to a specific point, use the preposition at.
Here are several examples!
- Rebekah is at work at the moment.
- Candace will meet David at 8.00pm at the restaurant.
- The minister will meet at church for Bible Study.
- I will meet Candace at midnight on New Years Eve.
Of course, there are several more propositions of place; however, they are easily identified, such as, under, over, near, behind, outside, inside and between.
Here are several more examples of prepositions of place!
- The ball rolled under the cupboard.
- The boy jumped over the fence.
- The dog was near the swimming pool.
- The broom was behind the door.
- The puppy was outside the house.
- The cat was inside the house.
- The thief hid between the sheds.
3. PREPOSITIONS OF MOVEMENT
Prepositions of movement indicate direction in which something or someone is moving.
The most common preposition of movement is to.
Here are several examples!
- Candace will move to the beach house for Christmas.
- David went to the beach every day over the holidays.
- Dad went to the park to play ball with the children.
- The puppy went to the park for puppy training with Rachel.
Other prepositions of movement add specific context to the movement, such as, across, through, into, over, down, up, past and around.
Rule 1 – When referring to movement from one side to another, use the preposition across.
- The ball rolled across the field very quickly.
- The dog ran across the oval without its owner while the game was in action.
- Billy and Bailey swam across the lake in record time during the holidays.
- The explorers tracked across the desert early in the morning to avoid the heat.
Rule 2 – When referring to movement from inside to outside or outside to inside, use the preposition through.
- The angry man put his fist through the wall.
- The car past through the tunnel on its way to the airport.
- The baseball went through the window when the children were playing in the backyard.
- During the storm, the large hail went through the roof and destroyed the home.
Rule 3 – When referring to movement that enters or looks inside, use the preposition into.
- Jonathan went into the shed to get his carpenter’s tools.
- The crowd looked into the night sky to spot the shooting star.
- Rachel swam into the cave to rescue the dog.
- The car drove into the fence when the driver lost control.
Rule 4 – When referring to a specific direction of movement, use the prepositions over, down, up, past and around.
- The car traveled over the slippery road during the rain storm.
- The escapees ran down the road to avoid capture.
- The man climbed up the mountain during the Christmas holidays.
- Candace ran past David to reach the finish line in record time.
- The lost driver drove around the block several times before finding the route to his friend’s place.
4. PREPOSITIONS OF MANNER
Prepositions of manner describe the way things happen or the means by which things happen. These prepositions include, by, in, like, with and on.
Here are several examples of prepositions of manner!
- The children go to school by bus.
- Candace went to the shopping mall in a taxi.
- The young girl sang like a professional.
- The man reacted with anger when confronted by the police.
- They traveled on foot due to the rough terrain.
5. PREPOSITIONS OF AGENT OR INSTRUMENT
Prepositions of agent or instrument indicate action conducted on something or someone by something or someone. These prepositions include, by and with.
Here are several examples of prepositions of agent or instrument!
- The movie script was written by Candace and David.
- Candace is writing the movie script with her black pen.
- The house was constructed by Jonathan.
- Jonathan is cutting the timber with his electric saw.
6. PREPOSITIONS OF MEASURE
Prepositions of measure indicate the quantity of something with someone or something. Theses prepositions include, by and of.
Here are several examples of prepositions of measure!
- The fabric shop sells the material by the meter.
- Candace brought a kilogram of tomatoes for the salad.
- One-third of the world was destroyed by the meteor.
7. PREPOSITIONS OF SOURCE
Prepositions of source indicate that something or someone originated from something or someone. These prepositions include, from and by.
Here are several examples of prepositions of source!
- Rachel receives money from her father in order to live comfortably.
- This note was written by my wife.
- He gave donations to charity from a grateful heart.
8. PREPOSITIONS OF POSSESSION
Prepositions of possession indicate something or someone is own by something or someone else. These prepositions include, of, with and to.
Here are several examples of prepositions of possession!
- This is the property of my late husband.
- Candace meet the boy with the dark sunglasses at the football game.
- The antique clock belongs to my mother.
- He is the friend of my classmate.
- I saw a girl with a pink dress.
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