Understanding the usages of preposition is quiet complicated for the ESL students of English.
They mostly get bewildered the different usages of prepositions. such “at” “on”
- I am at the top of mountain. or
- I am on the top of mountain.These kind of sentences will confuse the students.
We have got hundreds of prepositions in English which are discussed below in details. In this article kinds of prepositions are discussed according to the word(s) the preposition contains.
Proposition is a word which is used before noun or pronoun to show its relation to another part of the sentence.
- The book is on the table.
- He entered in the room.
in the above sentence the words “on” and “in” is preposition which demonstrate the position of noun and pronoun.
It is pretty difficult to identify the deference of prepositions even advanced learners of English find the usages of prepositions difficult and confusing.
There are hardly any rules as to when to use which preposition. The only way to learn prepositions is looking them up in a dictionary, reading a lot of English extracts and learning useful phrases off by heart.
The following table contains rules for some of the most frequently used prepositions in English:
Prepositions for Time
|on||days of the week||on Monday|
months / seasons
time of day
after a certain period of time (when?)
in August / in winter
in the morning
in an hour
a certain point of time (when?)
at the weekend
at half past nine
|since||from a certain point of time (past till now)||since 1890|
|for||over a certain period of time (past till now)||for 2 years|
|ago||a certain time in the past||2 years ago|
|before||earlier than a certain point of time||before 2010|
|to||telling the time||ten to six (5:50)|
|past||telling the time||ten past six (6:10)|
|to / till / until||marking the beginning and end of a period of time||from Monday to/till Friday|
|till / until||in the sense of how long something is going to last||He is on holiday until Friday.|
in the sense of at the latest
up to a certain time
I will be back by 6 o’clock.
By 11 o’clock, I had read five pages.
Prepositions – Place (Position and Direction)
room, building, street, town, country
book, paper etc.
in the kitchen, in London
in the book in the car, in a taxi in the picture, in the world
|· 2. at|
meaning next to, by an object
place where you are to do something typical (watch a film, study, work)
|at the door, at the station at the table at a concert, at the party at the cinema, at school, at work|
|· 3. on|
for a place with a river
being on a surface
for a certain side (left, right)
for a floor in a house
for public transport
for television, radio
|the picture on the wall|
London lies on the Thames.
on the table
on the left
on the first floor
on the bus, on a plane
on TV, on the radio
|4. by, next to, beside||left or right of somebody or something||Jane is standing by / next to / beside the car.|
|5. under||on the ground, lower than (or covered by) something else||the bag is under the table|
|6. below||lower than something else but above ground||the fish are below the surface|
covered by something else
meaning more than
getting to the other side (also across)
overcoming an obstacle
put a jacket over your shirt
over 16 years of age
walk over the bridge
climb over the wall
|8. above||higher than something else, but not directly over it||a path above the lake|
getting to the other side (also over)
getting to the other side
walk across the bridge
swim across the lake
|something with limits on top, bottom and the sides||drive through the tunnel|
movement to person or building
movement to a place or country
go to the cinema
go to London / Ireland
go to bed
|12. into||enter a room / a building||go into the kitchen / the house|
|13. towards||movement in the direction of something (but not directly to it)||go 5 steps towards the house|
|14. onto||movement to the top of something||jump onto the table|
|15. from||in the sense of where from||a flower from the garden|
Other important Prepositions
|who gave it||a present from Jane|
who/what does it belong to
what does it show
|a page of the book|
the picture of a palace
|3. by||who made it||a book by Mark Twain|
walking or riding on horseback
entering a public transport vehicle
|on foot, on horseback|
get on the bus
|5. in||entering a car / Taxi||get in the car|
|6. off||leaving a public transport vehicle||get off the train|
|7. out of||leaving a car / Taxi||get out of the taxi|
|8. by||rise or fall of something|
travelling (other than walking or horse riding)
prices have risen by 10 percent
by car, by bus
|9. at||for age||she learned Russian at 45|
|10. about||for topics, meaning what about||we were talking about you|
Prepositions of Time:
We use these preposition in various times such as:
- at for a PRECISE TIME
- in for MONTHS, YEARS, CENTURIES and LONG PERIODS
- on for DAYS and DATES
|PRECISE TIME||MONTHS, YEARS, CENTURIES and LONG PERIODS||DAYS and DATES|
|at 3 o’clock||in May||on Sunday|
|at 10.30am||in summer||on Tuesdays|
|at noon||in the summer||on 6 March|
|at dinnertime||in 1990||on 25 Dec. 2010|
|at bedtime||in the 1990s||on Christmas Day|
|at sunrise||in the next century||on Independence Day|
|at sunset||in the Ice Age||on my birthday|
|at the moment||in the past/future||on New Year’s Eve|
There is one very simple rule about prepositions. And, unlike most rules, this rule has no exceptions.
A preposition is followed by a “noun”. It is never followed by a verb.
By “noun” we include:
- noun (dog, money, love)
- proper noun (name) (Bangkok, Mary)
- pronoun (you, him, us)
- noun group (my first job)
- gerund (swimming)
A preposition can not be followed by a verb. If we want to follow a preposition by a verb, we must use the “-ing” form which is really a gerund or verb in noun form.
|Subject + verb||preposition||“noun”|
|The food is||on||the table.|
|Tara is looking||for||you.|
|The letter is||under||your blue book.|
|Pascal is used||to||English people.|
|She isn’t used||to||working.|
In the following sentences, why is “to” followed by a verb? That should be impossible, according to the above rule:
- I would like to go now.
- She used to smoke.
In these sentences, “to” is not
a preposition. It is part of the infinitive (“to go”, “to
Prepositions with Nouns, Adjectives, and Verbs.
NOUNS and PREPOSITIONS
ADJECTIVES and PREPOSITIONS
VERBS and PREPOSITIONS
look forward to
Prepositions are sometimes so firmly wedded to other words that they have practically become one word.
A combination of verb and preposition is called a phrasal verb. The word that is joined to the verb is then called a particle. Please refer to the brief section we have prepared on phrasal verbs for an explanation.
- ON TIME–IN TIME
On time means “on schedule”; in time usually means before an appointed time (often with time left over to do something).
- Were you late for your appointment?
- No, I was there on time. (I was there at the appointed time.)
- No, I reached the office in time to have a cup of coffee before my appointment.
- Were you late for your appointment?
- FROM . . . TO–FROM . . . UNTIL
These expressions have approximately the same meanings and are usually interchangeable in expression of time. However, only from … to is used in referring to place or position.
- He works from 8:00 to 5:00. He works from 8:00 until 5:00.
- We drove from Boston to New York in four hours.
Around and about (sometimes preceded with by and are used to indicate approximate time.)
- I’ll pick you up around 7 o’clock.
- It is now about 5 o’clock.
Comparison of some Prepositions:
In general, in means beneath the surface; on means touching the surface.
- There is a grease spot on my coat and a hole in my sweater.
- We had to drive a large nail in the ceiling in order to hang the picture on this wall.
In an address, on is used with the name of the street; at, with the house number and the name of the street.
- He lives on Green Street.
- He lives at 1236 Green Street.
In referring to location, at ordinarily indicates a specified location; in, a location within a house, building, city, and so forth.
- I’ll meet you at the library.
- I’ll meet you at the information desk in the lobby of the hotel.
- She is in the kitchen preparing dinner.
In is also used in referring to a location within a country.
- They own a house in Sweden.
- He is in Peru, South America, now.
In is ordinarily used in referring to cities.
- He lives in Hartford, Connecticut.
- They will arrive in Bangkok next month.
At is sometimes used in referring to the arrival of a train, and so forth.
- The train will arrive at Philadelphia at 8:10 p.m.
Into ordinarily refers to motion or action, although in is often used interchangeably with into in situations of this kind.
- I saw him go into (in) the director’s office a few minutes ago.
- They went into (in) the building an hour ago.
Kinds of Prepositions
Prepositions are of five kinds:
- Simple prepositions
- Compound prepositions
- Double prepositions
- Participle prepositions
- Phrase prepositions
1. Simple Prepositions
Simple prepositions are the several:
like in, on, at, about, over, under, off, of, for, to, by, till, up, down, after, with, etc.
- She sat on the sofa.
- He is going to the market.
- He fell off the ladder.
- There is some water in the bottle.
- She is about seven.
- They sat around the table.
- The cat was hiding under the bed.
2.Compound prepositions (prefixes or suffixes)
Compound prepositions are the words like
without, within, inside, outside, into, beneath, below, behind, between etc.
- He fell into the river.
- She sat between her kids.
- He sat beside her.
- There is nothing inside the jar.
- The teacher stood behind the desk.
- The boy ran across the road.
3. Double prepositions
Double prepositions are the words like outside of, out of, from behind, from beneath etc.
- I waited outside of the home.
- She was looking me from the behind of the tree.
- Suddenly he emerged from behind the curtain.
- we found it from beneath the dust.
- He walked out of the compound.
4. Participle prepositions
Participle prepositions are the words like concerning, notwithstanding, pending, considering etc.
- There was little chance of success, notwithstanding they decided to go ahead.
- You did the job well, considering your age and inexperience.
- Pending the task, we could get relax.
- We have to do all the plans concerning him as the part of it
5. Phrase prepositions
Phrase prepositions are the phrases like: because of, by means of, with regard to, on behalf of, instead of, on account of, in opposition to, for the sake of etc.
- I am standing here on behalf of my friends and colleagues.
- The match was cancelled because of the rain.
- we did all the works perfectly with regard to him.
- She could perform the duty well in stead of them.
- On the account of dispute the police arrested him.
- Our country is foreword for the sake of educated people.
- He succeeded by means of perseverance.
Prepositions and Adverbs
There are some words which can be used both as prepositions and as adverbs. If a word is used as a preposition it will have a noun or pronoun as its object. Adverbs, on the other hand, do not have objects. They are used to modify a verb, adjective, another adverb, Prepositional phrase or whole sentence.
- She sat in the armchair. (In – preposition; armchair – object)
- Please come in. (In – adverb; no object)
- He stood before me. (Before – preposition; object – me)
- I have seen him before. (Before – adverb; no object)
- She put the book on the table. (On – preposition; object – the table)
- Let’s move on. (On – adverb; no object)
- He will return after a month. (After – preposition; object – a month)
- He came soon after. (After – adverb; no object)