Prepositions – Examples & How to Use Them

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Prepositions-Definition

Prepositions are essential in the English language as they show the relationship between two elements in a sentence. We will discuss the use of these words in this guide.

Prepositions – In a Nutshell

  • They are words that express relationships between elements within a sentence.
  • They can indicate time, place, direction, manner, cause, and possession.
  • Some have more than one meaning, depending on the context. Therefore, they can easily be confused with each other.

Definition: Prepositions

They are words that express the correlation between elements in a sentence. For instance, they tell you where something is or when it occurred. Additionally, they can express the direction and abstract or logical connections between elements in a sentence. Most have multiple definitions, which change depending on the context.1

Example:

We ran to the classroom. (“to” is the preposition expressing direction)

Jane has been unwell since last month. (“since” is the preposition expressing time)

Those trousers are for him. (“for” is the preposition expressing ownership)

Common prepositions

The Cambridge English Dictionary lists over 100 single words that fall under this classification. You can split them into categories depending on their function. However, some express more than one form of correlation between elements in a sentence. The table below summarizes some common ones and their functions.2

Relationship Type (function) Common examples
Time In, on, at, before, until, after, during, while, until
Location Under, over, at, by, below, underneath, beneath, in, between
Movement/ direction To, into, across, down, up, past
Other correlations For, by, with, from, about

Types of prepositions

Below are the six basic types:

  • for place (about, across, against)
  • for time (after, at, by, since)
  • for agent or instrument (at, by, with)
  • for manner (like, with, by)
  • for cause, purpose, or reason (of, with, for)
  • for possession (on, of, with)3 4

Expressing relationships using prepositions

The various preposition types are categorized depending on the relationships they express. The table below explains how you can express relationships with these words.

Correlation expressed Examples
When • I haven’t seen them since childhood.
• The meeting will commence at noon.
How • I opened the door with a bobby pin.
• We increased reliability by giving accurate examples.
Where • The meeting is through that path.
• You will find the office on the second floor.
Why • I closed the door because of the wind.
• We had to wait since we did not have bus fare.5

Commonly confused prepositions

Since so many such words exist, it is easy for people to confuse and misuse them. This is because some of them can be used in more than one way, depending on the context. However, using the wrong preposition in a sentence can change its meaning.

Proposition Example Meaning
Of/for • I will try to duplicate the results of the studies.
• I will try to duplicate the results for the studies.
• The studies produced the results.
• The duplicated results will be given to the students.6
At/to • I will present the award at the show.
• I will present the award to the show.
On/in • The temperature has an impact on the 3rd world countries.
• The temperature has an impact in 3rd world countries.
• The impacts are a result of the temperature.
• The impacts occur within the 3rd world countries.

Ending a sentence with a preposition

There aren’t any strict rules against using a preposition at the end of a sentence. Therefore, you can end your sentence with a preposition to explain the correlation between actions or elements within the sentence.7

Example:

The answers are what we are looking for.8

Multi-word prepositions

Some take the form of multiple words. These are called prepositional sentences and are usually combined with verbs to indicate physical or immaterial correlations. Additionally, they are usually followed by an object to act as a verb or adjective in a sentence.

Example:

My new dress is similar to yours.

The new teacher quit due to the unruly students.9

FAQs

You can identify a preposition by asking questions about the elements in a sentence. For instance, in a sentence, ‘We talked to Michael,’ you can find the preposition by asking, ‘Who did we talk to?’ Doing this will help you identify the preposition and when to use it.3

The most common ones are; to, under, since, for, about, above, across, as, along, against, behind, and at.

This is a preposition followed by an object. A prepositional phrase can function as an adjective (modifies a noun) or an adverb (modifies a verb).2

They show location, time, direction, or connections between ideas in a sentence.

Sources

1 Ross, Brittney. “Prepositions.” Grammarly. January 14, 2021. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/prepositions/.

2 Gunner, Jennifer. “What Is a Preposition? Explanation, Usage, and Examples.” Yourdictionary. Accessed September 10, 2022. https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/parts-of-speech/prepositions/list-of-common-prepositions.html.

3 Sharma, Chhavi. “6 Types of Prepositions with Examples in English.” EnglishBix. Accessed September 10, 2022. https://www.englishbix.com/types-of-prepositions-in-english/.

4 de Ridder, Alexander. “5 Types of Prepositions: An Easy Guide.” Ink. January 18, 2021. https://blog.inkforall.com/types-of-prepositions.

5 Yen Cabag. “Types of Prepositions and How to Use Them Correctly.” TCKpublishing Accessed September 10, 2022. https://www.tckpublishing.com/prepositions/.

6 Enago Academy. “Commonly Confused Prepositions.” Enagoacademy. Accessed September 10, 2022. https://www.enago.com/academy/commonly-confused-prepositions/.

7 Merriam-Webster. “Prepositions, Ending a Sentence With.” Accessed September 10, 2022.  https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/prepositions-ending-a-sentence-with.

8 Gunner, Jennifer. “Ending a Sentence With a Preposition: Easy Guidelines.” Yourdictionary. Accessed September 10, 2022. https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/parts-of-speech/prepositions/ending-a-sentence-with-a-preposition.html .

9 Grammarwiz. “Multi-Word Verbs.” Accessed September 10, 2022. https://www.grammarwiz.com/multi-word-verbs.html.