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Prepositions in English

What is a Preposition? A preposition is a word that indicates location or some other relationship between a noun or pronoun and other parts of the sentence. A preposition adds additional information to sentences such as; direction, place, time, movement, manner, agent, measure, source and possession. We will look at each one later in this post.

A preposition isn't a preposition unless it goes with a related noun or pronoun, called the object of the preposition. Examples: Let's go before dark. Before is a preposition; dark is its object. We've never met before.

There is no object of the preposition; before is an adverb modifying met.

Rule 1. A preposition usually, but not always, goes before its noun or pronoun.

One of the most common myths of English grammar is that you may not end a sentence with a preposition. Just do not use extra prepositions when the meaning is clear without them.

That is something I cannot agree with. CORRECT

Where did you get this? CORRECT Where did you get this at? INCORRECT How many of you can I depend on? CORRECT

Where did he go? CORRECT Where did he go to? INCORRECT

Rule 2a. The preposition like means “similar to” or “similarly to.” It should be followed by an object of the preposition (noun, pronoun, noun phrase), not by a subject and verb. Rule of thumb: Avoid like when a verb is involved. You look like your mother. CORRECT That is, you look similar to her. (Mother is the object of the preposition like.) You look like your mother does. (Avoid like with noun + verb.) INCORRECT Rule 2b. Instead of like, use as, as if, as though, or the way when following a comparison with a subject and verb. You look the way your mother does. CORRECT Do like I ask. (No one would say Do similarly to I ask.) INCORRECT Do as I ask. CORRECT You look like you're angry. INCORRECT You look as if you're angry. (OR as though) CORRECT Some speakers and writers use as when they mean like. They are considered as any other English words. INCORRECT They are considered as any other English words would be. CORRECT

They are considered to be like any other English words. CORRECT Remember: like means “similar to” or “similarly to”; as means “in the same manner that.” Rule of thumb: Do not use as unless there is a verb involved. I, as most people, try to use good grammar. INCORRECT

I, like most people, try to use good grammar. CORRECT

I, as most people do, try to use good grammar. CORRECT

Note The rule distinguishing like from as, as if, as though, and the way is increasingly ignored, but English purists still insist upon it.

Rule 3. The preposition of should never be used in place of the helping verb have. I should have done it. CORRECT

I should of done it. INCORRECT

Rule 4. Follow different with the preposition from. Things differ from other things; avoid different than. You're different than I am. INCORRECT

You're different from me. CORRECT

Rule 5. Use into rather than in to express motion toward something. Use in to tell the location. I swam in the pool. CORRECT I walked into the house. CORRECT

I looked into the matter. CORRECT

I dove in the water. INCORRECT I dove into the water. CORRECT

Throw it in the trash. INCORRECT

Throw it into the trash. CORRECT

8 Types of Prepositions With Examples

Prepositions of time usually indicate when something happens, happened or will happen in the future. (at, on, in, during, since, for, by, while, before and after)

  • Jenny left for work at 8 o'clock.

  • She was born on the 5th of September.

  • She went to Spain in 2019.

  • He met her during the holidays.

  • It was sometime before Christmas.

  • I started working straight after I graduated.

  • He has lived in Italy since 1998.

  • She worked here for three years.

  • The project must be completed by the end of the day.

  • I listen to music while I study

There are some rules that will help you to use the correct preposition.

Use at for the time:

Use on for days and dates.

Use in with weeks, months, years and seasons.

Use during to talk about when something happens.

Use since with the start of a period of time.

Use for with a period of time / length of time.

Use by when we want to say "not later than" or any time until this point (a deadline).

Use while when speaking about two actions happening at the same time. The length of the action is not important

Prepositions of place usually tell us where something is positioned. (in, on, at, behind, next to, in front of, under, over, near, far, outside, inside, between etc.) These are pretty easy to determine but because they are also prepositions of time here are some guidelines for when to use in, on and at.

Use on when referring to something with a surface.

Use in when speaking about something inside or confined.

Use at when referring to a specific point.

Prepositions of movement indicate the direction in which something or someone is moving. (to, over, through, up, down, across, around, into etc.)

  • I am going to the movies.

  • I had to jump over the gate

  • She walked through the streets of London.

  • Look up at the clouds in the sky.

  • Go down the stairs.

  • Walk across the room.

  • You should go around the corner.

  • Go into the shop.

Prepositions of manner describe the way or the means by which things happen. (by, in, like, with, on)

  • The children go to school by bus

  • I went to the movies in a taxi.

  • She sings like a professional.

  • She was filled with joy.

  • They travelled on foot because of the muddy pathways.

Prepositions of agent and instrument connect an action with the person who performed the action. They connect something that is done with the person or thing that did it. (by, with)

  • The book was written by Stephen King.

  • I swept the floor with a broom.

Prepositions of measure indicate the quantity of something with someone or something. (by, of)

  • The store sells fruit and vegetables by the kilogram.

  • You should drink at least two litres of water every day.

Prepositions of source show the origin or source of something in a sentence. (from, by)

  • The earth receives light from the sun.

  • The cleaning is done by me.

Prepositions of possession are used to show ownership of something or someone. (of, with, to)

  • He is a friend of mine.

  • She spoke to the man with the dark hair.

  • The watch belongs to my grandfather.

Let's practice!!!

Correct the following sentences by adding, removing, or changing the prepositions. Place a check mark in front of sentences that are correct.

1. We could of been there by now if we hadn't gotten lost.

2. Where did you buy that beautiful necklace at? 3. Charles talks like his brother does. 4. He drove his car in the garage. 5. Did you take an envelope off of my desk? 6. Where did Nadia's little dog go to? 7. Like the ranger said, this is an area with a lot of poison ivy.

8. Stacey's copy of the book was different than mine. 9. Jacques acted like he never met your aunt.

10. The tour guide led our group into the library. 11. Where did you get this from? 12. I could of danced all night. 13. This problem is no different than many others I've dealt with.

14. The lioness ate like she hadn't eaten food in a week.

15. The man is in a mountain.

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