English Grammar Guide

Prepositions

A preposition is used to connect two things: a noun, an adjective or a verb which is used first, and a noun phrase or a pronoun that comes after the preposition.

Prepositions

A preposition is used to connect two things: a noun, an adjective or a verb that comes which is used first, and a noun phrase or a pronoun that comes after the preposition. In their simplest form, prepositions are used to indicate the position (in space or time) of one thing in relation to another.

  • She has bought a gift for you.

  • The children are in the garden.

  • She smiled at him.

  • I am really angry with you.


Preposition List

Here are some of the most common English prepositions, with some examples:

  • to -- He gave the book to me yesterday.  /  He is flying to London tomorrow morning.

  • from -- He comes from Brazil.

  • at -- I usually get up at 7.00am.   /   I studied philosophy at Cambridge University.

  • on -- She put her cup on the table.  /  I'll meet you on Monday.

  • in --  He is in his car.  /  I'm visiting Japan in December.

  • of -- This is the first week of the year.

  • under -- We had a picnic under a tree.

  • over -- I walked over a small bridge.

  • for -- She has gone shopping for food.  /  I have been waiting for 15 minutes.

  • against -- I'm sorry but everyone is against that idea.  /  He was leaning against the wall.

  • underneath -- The DVD player is underneath the TV.

  • before -- She arrived just before the film started.

  • after -- We went to a bar after we finished shopping.

  • in front of -- I always park my car in front of my apartment.

  • behind -- My car is there, behind the blue BMW.

  • around -- We walked around the town centre for ages.

  • toward -- He walked towards me with a gun.

  • close to -- The bank is close to the supermarket, you can't miss it.

  • far from -- France isn't far from England, it's only about 20 miles away.

  • next to -- I live at number 20 and she lives next to me, at number 22.

  • facing -- She sat down on the opposite side of the table, facing me.

  • beside -- The cat sat beside me, on the sofa.

  • between -- The bank is between the supermarket and the library.

  • above -- There were black clouds in the sky above us.

  • below -- From the Eiffel Tower, the people below seemed very small.

Prepositions used to describe travelling

Travel or movement towards a place, town, country, or continent is usually expressed by the preposition "to"
Movement away from a place or city (etc) is expressed by "from" (if the verb requires a pronoun)

  • He went to Paris recently.

  • She's flying to Rotterdam tomorrow.

  • She comes from Napoli.

  • He had an accident driving home from work.

  • But.... He left Brazil yesterday.  (We do not use a preposition with the verb 'to leave')

Mode of travel

Usually, the preposition "by" is used to describe how you travel. 
The prepositions "in" and "on" describe your presence inside a vehicle.We say we are "in" a car, taxi or helicopter.
We normally use "on" to describe being inside a train, bus, boat, motorcycle, scooter, plane and horse.

  • I came by bike.

  • I don't like traveling by plane.

  • I was already on the train when he arrived.

  • She is waiting for me in the car.

  • When I was coming here on my motorbike, it started to rain.

Note:   No preposition is used with verbs of movement and the noun 'home'.

Prepositions of movement

We generally use into and onto to talk about movement.

  • She walked slowly into the room. 

  • She poured the wine into the glass.

  • How did the cat get onto the roof?

To talk about position, we usually use 'in' and 'on', whereas after verbs like 'throw', 'jump', and 'push' these same prepositions talk about movement.

  • He jumped into the pond. (OR He jumped in the pond.)

  • He threw his hat onto the roof.

  • Throw another log on the fire.

'Out of' is the opposite of the preposition 'into'.

  • She ran out of the room.

  • She ran into the room.

  • He took the letter out of his pocket.

Prepositions and Time

"At" is used to specify a time. (This also includes 'at night', 'at Christmas', 'at Easter' and ' at the weekend')

  • Let's meet at six o'clock.

  • They arrived at 4:45.

"On" is used to talk about specify dates and days of the week.

  • His birthday is on Monday.

  • It happened on March 3, 1997.

"In" is used to talk about months, years and seasons.  
In addition, "In the.." is used to talk about periods of time such as  'in the summer' or 'in the morning / afternoon / evening'.

  • My birthday is in September.

  • We will begin work in August.

  • I never drink coffee in the evening.

'For..' is used to talk about the duration of something, whereas "in" is used to talk about the time it takes to complete a task.

  • I am going away for a few days.

  • He worked with them for three years.

  • I finished reading that book in a day.

Prepositions and Wh-questions

When a question word is the object of a preposition, the preposition usually comes at the end of the question. In simple terms, in wh-questions (questions with 'what', 'which', where' etc) if the verb requires a preposition, it is placed at the end of the question:

  • Who is this present for? ('For whom is this present?' is also possible, but very formal.)

  • What are you listening to?

  • Where did you buy this from?

  • Who did you go with?

Also, the preposition usually comes at the end of indirect wh-questions.

  • Tell me what you are thinking about.

  • Do you know who she went with?

In speech, some questions consist of only a question word and preposition.

  • What with?

  • Who for?

  • What about?

Prepositions and Relative structures

When a relative pronoun is the object of a preposition, the preposition usually goes at the end of the clause.

  • I don't know who he was talking to.

  • This is the girl that I told you about.

  • It is Peter that I am angry with.

Prepositions and Infinitive structures

Infinitive complements can also have prepositions with them.

  • Barcelona is a great city to live in.

  • She needs other children to play with.

Prepositions and Indirect objects

Some verbs are followed by two objects – a direct object and an indirect object. The prepositions "to" and 'for' are used to introduce an indirect object. The indirect object usually refers to a person and the direct object usually refers to a thing.

In the examples below, the pronoun 'this' refers to the direct object and the pronoun 'them' refers to the indirect object.

  • I shall explain this to them.

  • I cooked this for them.

When both objects are pronouns, the indirect object usually comes after the indirect object. In other cases, it usually comes before the direct object.

When the indirect object comes after the direct object, it takes the preposition to or for. If the indirect object is placed in front of the direct object, we omit the preposition. Examples :

  • She gave me the ticket.        (In this case, "me" is the indirect object and is placed in front of the direct object 'ticket')

  • She gave the ticket to me.    (In this case, 'the direct object is used in front of the indirect object, and so the preposition is used)

  • I sent her a letter.

  • I sent a letter to her

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