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Introduction to English Prepositions

Prepositions can be tricky, even advanced learners of English find prepositions difficult. Because one preposition can have several usages and several translations depending on the situation. 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 and reading English articles to remember prepositions.
Here we will just have introduction to English prepositions. Read the whole article to know about the purpose of prepositions and position of prepositions in a sentence.

Introduction to English Prepositions

Prepositions are words which are used to link nouns, pronouns and phrase to other words in a sentence.
The word or phrase that the preposition introduces is called the object of the prepositions.

  • I am watching a cricket match in the bedroom.
    Here the preposition is “in” which shows my place and links the noun “bedroom” to the rest of words in the sentence, also “bedroom” is called the object of the preposition.

The Purpose of Prepositions
The prepositions are words which function as an adjective or adverb in a sentence. They show the relationship between a noun or a pronoun and some other word or element in the rest of the sentence. Prepositions have many functions, as follows:

1. Prepositions are used with time words to show time.
On Friday.
In the morning. 
In the 21st century.

2. Prepositions are used to show the positions of someone or something.
• The duster is on the dice.
• Students are in the playground.

3. Prepositions are used to show direction.
• We step toward perfection.
• He goes to school by bus.

4. Prepositions are used to introduce an object.
• My favorite game will be on TV tonight.
• He is on the phone right now.

The Position of Prepositions in a Sentence 

A preposition can be used in different part of a sentence. A preposition isn’t a preposition unless it goes with a related noun or pronoun, also called object of the preposition. Consider the example below.
• Let’s meet before noon. (“Before is a preposition, “noon’ is its object or preposition”)
• Have we met before? (In this sentence we don’t have an object and “before” is an adverb which modifies the verb “met”)

1. A preposition generally goes before its noun or pronoun in a sentence.
• The teacher is in the office.
• The bones are for the dog.

2. A preposition can be used at the end of a sentence, but remember when it’s used at the end of a sentence the preposition is not extraneous.
• I turned the TV on. (Correct)
• This is something I cannot agree with. (Correct)
• Where did he go to? (Incorrect)
• The table is where I put my pen on. (Incorrect)

In the last two sentences the prepositions “to and on” are extraneous or unnecessary and we don’t need them, therefore the last two sentences are incorrect. The sentences are correct without extraneous prepositions, as follow:
• Where did he go? (Correct)
• The table is where I put my pen. (Correct)

3. Preposition can be used at the beginning of a sentence, but there is a right way and a wrong way to start with a preposition.
Despite the rain, they continued their match.
In spite of having good qualification, the director refused to appoint her.

You have to be careful when starting a sentence with a preposition, that the sentence does not become fragmented as a result. Consider the example below:
• The dog jumped over the log. (Correct)
Over the log the dog jumped. (Incorrect)

4. A preposition is never followed by a verb. It should be followed by an object of the preposition (noun, pronoun, noun phrase) not by a subject and a verb.
• You look like your father. (Correct)
That is, you look similar to him. (The father is the object of the preposition)
• You look like your father does. (Incorrect)
(Avoid using the preposition “like” with noun + verb)


(1) Instead of “like”, you can use “as if, as though or the way” when following a comparison with a subject and verb.
• You look the way your father does. (Correct)
• You look like your father does. (Incorrect)
• You look as if/ as though you’re angry. (Correct)
• You look like you are angry. (Incorrect)

(2) Remember: like means” similar to or similarly to”, As means “in the same manner that.” Do not use “As” unless there is a verb involved.
• I, like most people, try to do my best. (Correct)
• I, as most people, try to do my best. (Incorrect)
• I, as most people do, try to do my best. (Correct)

(3) Use “into” rather than “in” to express motion toward something. We use “in” to tell the location.
• We play in the playground. (Correct)
• We play into the playground. (Incorrect)

Motion toward something:
• I walked into the house. (Correct)
• I looked into the matter. (Correct)
• I dived in the water. (Incorrect)
• I dived into the water. (Correct)
• Throw it in the trash. (Incorrect)
• Throw it into the trash. (Correct)

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