Prepositions: Definition and Usage

     A preposition may be defined as connecting word showing the
relation of a noun or a noun substitute to some other word in the
sentence (the squirrel in the tree; the preposition in shows the
relationship between the squirrel and the tree.).
Over ninety percent of preposition usage involves these nine
               with           at             by
               to             in             for
               from           of             on

     Prepositions cause problems because sometimes they can be used
interchangeably (He sat on the chair: He sat in the chair), because
prepositions are often combined with verbs to create phrasal verbs
(to look after someone; to look down on someone), and because a
single preposition can be used to express several different ideas
(He is tall for his age; I swam for an hour).

     The most efficient method of study is to familiarize yourself
with prepositions and prepositional phrases through practice and
memorization.  This is particularly helpful for the bilingual
student, who often seems to find preposition usage one of the most
difficult parts of the English language.

Uses of Common Prepositions

Prepositions are used to express a number of relationships, including time, location, manner, means, quantity, purpose, and state or condition. The following outline demonstrates the uses of common prepositions.


about: about noon (approximately) after: after the game at: at five o'clock after lunch at last (finally) after three by: by midnight (no later than) for: for an hour (duration) from: from Monday to Friday in: in the morning of: a quarter of three (15 in the fall minutes before) in April on: on Tuesday (day of the week) in 1987 on May 8 (date) in six months (at the end of) on time (punctual) in time (early enough) past: a quarter past three (15 to: a quarter to three (15 minutes minutes after) before)


around: She walked around the car. at: They are at home. down: They lived down the hall. We were at the restaurant. from: We immigrated from Peru He smiled at her. in 1991. in: He lives in a trailer. The restaurant is one We waited in the bus. mile from here. inside: Put it inside the house. of: We moved south of Montreal on: We sat on the ocean pier. through: They drove through the tunnel. She left on the train. to: He went to Prague. up: He walked up the stairs. Give it to me. with: He went with me.


by: He was hit by a ball. from: His success results from She came by train. careful planning. He did it by hard work. in: He takes pleasure in it. It came by special delivery. on: They live on bread and water. He got there by swimming. with: He chased the mongoose with a stick.


by: By doing it yourself, you in: He left in confusion. save time. The room was in a turmoil. like: He looks like a hero. You can do it in a day. on: I swear it on my word of honor. with: He ate it with a fork.


at: My friend is at work. by: They are by themselves She is at home. (alone). in: He is in a state of on: He is on duty (scheduled to confusion. work). for: I mistook you for someone as: I see her as a good person. else.


for: We drove for twenty miles. by: We bought them by the kilo. We bought it for ten cents.


for: He bought it for an emergency. She went to the city for sightseeing. He loved her for her thoughtfulness.

Uses of Prepositions after Certain Verbs

account for
agree on (something)
agree with (someone)
apologize to
apply for
approve of
argue with (someone)
ask for
believe in
belong to
blame (someone) for (something)
blame (something) on (someone)
borrow from
call on (upon)
care for
compliment (someone) on
come from
consent to
consist of
convince (someone) of (something)
decide on (upon)
depend on (upon)
get rid of
hear about
hear from
hear of
insist on (upon)
invite (someone) to
laugh at
listen for
listen to
look at
look for
look forward to
object to
plan on
provide for
provide with
recover from
remind (someone) of
search for
see about
substitute for
talk about
talk of
telephone to
think about
think of
wait for
wait on (meaning serve)

Uses of Prepositions with Certain Adjectives and in Idiomatic Expressions

according to
accustomed to
angry about (something)
capable of
composed of
content with
dependent on (upon)
different from (than)
disappointed in
due to
followed by
fond of
have respect for
in accordance with
angry at (someone)
angry with (someone)
based on
independent of
in regard to
interested in
limited to
married to
proud of
related to
resulting from
similar to
tired of
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