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”
for instance:

  1. I am at the top of mountain. or
  2. 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.

PREPOSITION:

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

EnglishUsageExample
   on  days of the week  on Monday
·         in

  months / seasons

time of day

year

after a certain period of time (when?)

  in August / in winter

in the morning

in 2006

in an hour

    at

  for night

for weekend

a certain point of time (when?)

  at night

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.
    by

  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)

     English             UsageExample
1.    in

  room, building, street, town, country

book, paper etc.

car, taxi

picture, world

  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

for table

for events

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

  attached

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 groundthe fish are below the surface
7.over

  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
9. across

  getting to the other side (also over)

getting to the other side

  walk across the bridge

swim across the lake

  10. through

  something with limits on top, bottom and   the sides  drive through the tunnel
11. to

  movement to person or building

movement to a place or country

for bed

  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

EnglishUsageExample
  1.  from
who gave ita present from Jane

2.  of

who/what does it belong to

what does it show

a page of the book

the picture of a palace

3. bywho made ita book by Mark Twain
4.  on

walking or riding on horseback

entering a public transport vehicle

on foot, on horseback

get on the bus

5.  inentering a car  / Taxiget in the car
6. offleaving a public transport vehicle get off the train
7.  out ofleaving a car  / Taxi get out of the taxi
8. byrise or fall of something

travelling (other than walking or horse riding)

prices have risen by 10 percent

by car, by bus

9.  atfor ageshe learned Russian at 45
10. aboutfor topics, meaning what aboutwe 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
atinon
PRECISE TIMEMONTHS, YEARS, CENTURIES and LONG PERIODSDAYS and DATES
at 3 o’clockin Mayon Sunday
at 10.30amin summeron Tuesdays
at noonin the summeron 6 March
at dinnertimein 1990on 25 Dec. 2010
at bedtimein the 1990son Christmas Day
at sunrisein the next centuryon Independence Day
at sunsetin the Ice Ageon my birthday
at the momentin the past/futureon New Year’s Eve

There is one very simple rule about prepositions. And, unlike most rules, this rule has no exceptions.

Rule
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 + verbpreposition“noun”
The food isonthe table.
She livesinJapan.
Tara is lookingforyou.
The letter isunderyour blue book.
Pascal is usedtoEnglish people.
She isn’t usedtoworking.
I atebeforecoming.

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

smoke”).

Prepositions with Nouns, Adjectives, and Verbs.

NOUNS and PREPOSITIONS

approval of
awareness of
belief in
concern for
confusion about
desire for
fondness for
grasp of
hatred of
hope for
interest in
love of
need for
participation in
reason for
respect for
success in
understanding of

ADJECTIVES and PREPOSITIONS

afraid of
angry at
aware of
capable of
careless about
familiar with
fond of
happy about
interested in
jealous of
made of
married to
proud of
similar to
sorry for
sure of
tired of
worried about

VERBS and PREPOSITIONS

apologize for
ask about
ask for
belong to
bring up
care for
find out
give up
grow up
look for
look forward to
look up
make up
pay for
prepare for
study for
talk about
think about
trust in
work for
worry about

Prepositions are sometimes so firmly wedded to other words that they have practically become one word.

This occurs in three categories: nouns, adjectives, and verbs.

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. AROUND–ABOUT
    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:

  1. IN–ON
    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.
  1. ON–AT
    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.
  1. AT–IN
    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:

  1.  Simple prepositions
  2.  Compound prepositions
  3. Double prepositions
  4. Participle prepositions
  5. 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.

Compare:

  • 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)

 

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