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Prepositions Overview

Prepositions are the dating apps of English, if you choose the wrong app, you just end up with all the wrong relationships. Prepositions connect a noun (or a noun substitute) to some other word in the sentence. They show how the two words relate. They are a great worry to many non-native speakers, and although small can have a great impact on a student’s fluency.

Prepositions are used to express a number of relationships. This include

  • time,
  • location,
  • manner,
  • means,
  • quantity,
  • purpose, and
  • state or condition. 

One of the reasons why prepositions cause students so many issues is that the same preposition may be used to show a number of different types of relationships.

  • The cat sat on the mat – shows location
  • I swear it on my word of honour –  shows manner
  • I met him on Tuesday – shows time

The cat sat on the mat. In this sentence, the preposition is on. The noun is mat, and the relationship is sat (verb).

Sometimes people find it difficult to know which prepositions to use. Sometimes two different prepositions can be used in the same sentence and have the same meaning.

  • He sat on the chair: He sat in the chair,

In some cases, the same sentence structure and the same prepositions but change the noun, and it can have different meanings.

  • He sat on the car: He sat in the car

Use in Phrasal Verbs

Prepositions are also used to form phrasal verbs. This makes them confusing; because they can often change the meaning to what you are accustomed. Phrasal verbs combine 2 or 3 words to make a single meaning.

“Look after” is a phrasal verb which means to care for. The prepositions after refer to behind or following, but when you look after someone you are usually by their side.

There are 10 prepositions which make up 90% of the prepositions used in English.

  • with
  • at
  • by
  • to
  • in
  • for
  • from
  • of
  • on
  • about

TIME

Preposition Example
about/around I eat about noon
after We will meet after the lesson
at We will meet at five o’clock
by I will finish by five o’clock
for I will work for 15 minutes
in I will go to Thailand in the summer
on I will meet you on the weekend
past It is past 5 o’clock

PLACE OR DIRECTION

Preposition Example
around walk around the house
at They are at school
down They lived down the road
from We come from Thailand
inside I put it inside the room
in We are in the car
of We live north of the city
on we sat on the chair
through We walked through the tunnel
to He went to the mall
up She climbed up the mountain
with She went with her mother

MEANS OR AGENT

Preposition Example
by He was hit by a car
from His looks come from his mother
in She takes pleasure in seeing me suffer
on He survived on eating bugs
with He hit the car with a bat

MANNER

Preposition Example
by He travelled by foot
like His looks like he can fight
in Rome wasn’t built in a day
on He swore on his oath
with Chinese eat with chopsticks

STATE OR CONDITION

Preposition Example
by He was by himself
at My mother is at work
in It is in a bad state
on He is on duty
for He was mistaken for a famous person
as It is seen as a real challenge

QUANTITY OR MEASURE

Preposition Example
by It is sold by the kilogramme
for We drove for hours

PURPOSE

Preposition Example
for She went to China for sightseeing

Collocations of Prepositions

Certain prepositions are almost always used after certain verbs. These are not Phrasal Verbs but are collocations (words that are natural together) 

  • agree with (someone)
  • believe in
  • borrow from
  • consist of
  • look forward to
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