PREPOSITIONS

Prepositions are tiny little words that give everyone a big headache.

For such little words they are pretty powerful, they show the relationships between nouns, pronouns and other words in a sentence. Most of the time they come before a noun, and can affect the time, place, and movement.

The good news is that they never change their form, regardless of the case, gender etc. of the word they are referring to.

They can be classified as simple or compound prepositions.

Simple prepositions are single word prepositions: across, after, at, before, between, by, during, from, in, into, of, on, to, under, with and without are all single word prepositions.

For example:-

  • The book is on the table.
  • The book is under the cloth.

Compound prepositions contain more than one word. Ahead of and because of, are still prepositions even though they contain two words, and there meaning can be a bit more difficult to work out.

For example:-

  • They followed the car ahead of them. (Gives information about place.)
  • They were following it because of the heavy fog. (Gives information about reason.)

In front of, in case of, on behalf of , are also compound prepositions. They just happen to contain three words.

For example:-

  • The book is on top of the bookcase.
  • The book is in front of the clock.

Their meaning can be less clear cut:-

For example:-

  • Some icons are sophisticated enough to be used in place of images.
  • In spite of the many technological advances available, many schools are still using pen and paper.

PREPOSITIONS OF MOVEMENT

Prepositions are used to show movement to or from a place.

For example:-

to, through, across

We use to to show movement with the aim of a specific destination.

For example:-
I moved to Germany in 1998.
He’s gone to the shops.

We use through to show movement from one side of an enclosed space to the other.

For example: 
The train went through the tunnel.

We use across to show movement from one side of a surface or line to another.

For example: 
She swam across the river.

MORE PREPOSITIONS OF MOVEMENT

She ran…
across the road. (from one side to the other)
along the road. (The length of the road.)
around the playground.
away from the policeman.
back to the shop.
down the hill.
into the room.
off the stage.
onto (on to) the platform.
out of the theatre.
over the bridge. (from one side of an open space to the other)
past the opening.
round the track.
through the tunnel.
to the door.
towards the bus stop.
under the shelter.
up the hill.

At and in can also be used as prepositions of movement, but they’re used to show the purpose of the movement.

For example:

I threw the paper in the bin.
Let’s have dinner at my place.

When used after some verbs, the preposition at also shows the target of an action:

The bowler was sent off for throwing the ball at the umpire, instead of to the batsman.

!Note – a lot of sites say that around and round are the same, but there can be a difference, especially in BrE. If someone says “they were running around”, it implies the movement is erratic.

For example: Children tend to run around at school.

In BrE when we use “round” we imply a more definite purpose and a more circular movement.

For example: The athlete ran round the track.

PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE

Prepositions can be used to show where something is located.

THE PREPOSITIONS AT, ON, AND IN

We use at to show a specific place, location or position.

For example:
Someone is at the door.
They met each other at a friend’s house.
I used to live at 51 Portland Street.

preposition at
The owls are waiting at the bus stop.

We use on to show position on a horizontal or vertical surface.

For example:
The cat sat on the mat.
The picture is hanging on the wall.
The satellite dish is on the roof.

preposition on
The owl is standing on the box.

We also use on to show position on streets, roads, etc.

For example: 
I used to live on Portland Street.

We use in to show that something is enclosed or surrounded.

For example:
The dog is in the garden.
She is in the taxi.
They live in a flat.

preposition in
The owl is sleeping in the box.

We also use in to show position within a general area (towns, counties, states, countries, and continents).

For example:
I used to live in Nottingham, but now I live in Germany.

MORE PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE

Prepositions of Place

Examples

AFTER
She slammed the door after her.
They ran after the thief.
AMONG
I enjoy being among my friends.
I found my handbag among my luggage.
AT
The secretary was sitting at her desk.
The man was staring at the picture.
BEHIND
The car park is behind the building.
He never won a race. He was always behind the others.
BETWEEN
The prisoner sat between the two policemen.
I held the pen between my thumb and fingers.
IN
The pen was in the drawer.
He lives in South Africa.
IN FRONT OF
The teacher stands in front of the class.
The car was parked in front of the garage.
NEXT TO / BESIDE / BY
In my English lesson I always sit next to / beside / by my friend.
The bank is next to / beside/ by the hotel.
ON
The painting was hanging on the wall.
The boy was sitting on the chair.
OVER/ABOVE
The sign hanging above the door read ‘No smoking’.
I put the tablecoth over the table.
UNDER / BELOW / BENEATH
The temperature outside was below 0°.
They kissed under the mistletoe.
The ground shook beneath her.

 

We say in a car / taxi, but on a boat, train, bus etc. Why? Because.

If it helps: When you get in a car or a taxi, you climb in and sit straight down, but you have to get onto public transport and then walk to your seat / carriage etc.

PREPOSITIONS OF TIME

Prepositions can also be used to show when something happened.

THE PREPOSITIONS AT, ON, AND IN

We use at for specific times.

For example:-
I start work at 7.00 a.m.
I don’t work at night.

We use on for specific days and dates .

For example: 
My birthday is on Monday.
We’re having a party on 7th September.

We also use on for some special days.

For example: 
On Christmas day.

We use in for nonspecific times during a day, a month, a season, or a year.

For example: 
In summer it’s too hot to work.
I started this web site in 1999.
She woke up in the night.

MORE PREPOSITIONS OF TIME

Prepositions of Time

Examples

POINT IN TIME
AT
6 o’clock
midnight
the latest
ON
Saturday
April 10th
Christmas Day
BY
(indicates a deadline = at the latest)
the end of July
10 o’clock
tomorrow
TILL / UNTIL / UP TO
(indicates an end point)
March 10 o’clock tomorrow next week
SINCE
(indicates a beginning point in time)
April
10th March
LENGTH OF TIME
IN
July
the autumn
the morning
the middle of …….
AT
night
the weekend
DURING
the meeting
the lesson
FOR
two days
twelve months
THROUGHOUT
August
the project

 

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