What Are Prepositions in English Grammar? Examples, exercises, and Use

Prepositions

Examples:

My grandmother always went to school with me because the school was attached to the temple.
The word that have been made bold are called prepositions.

what is prepositions?

Prepositions are a small set of English words or expressions that show the relationship between a noun or pronoun and another word in the sentence.

(a) The book is on the table.
(b) The book on the table is mine.
(c) I put the book on that table.
(d) The table is full of books.

In the above sentences, the preposition tells us the position of the book in relation to the table.

We have three types of prepositions: Single word, multi-word, and participle.

Single-word prepositions are :

aboutamongbesideduringintoonthrough
acrossatBetweenexceptlikeovertill
afterbeforebeyondfornearpastto
againstbehindby fromofroundtowards
alongbelowdowninoffsinceunder
untilupuponwithwithinwithout

Multi-word prepositions are :

according todue to
along withexcept forin addition toin comparison with
apart fromin front ofinstead ofin relation to
as forin spite ofout ofprior to
as toby means ofopposite oftogether with
because offor the sake ofowing to
butt forwith a view toover and above

Prepositions with – ing :

exceptingbarringfollowing
concerningconsideringincluding
pendingregarding

A preposition joins a noun/pronoun to another expression in the sentence. The other expression may be

(i) a noun/pronoun : The book on the table.
(ii) an adjective : He is good at mathematics
(iii) a verb : You must listen to your teacher.
(iv)an adverb : He writes well for his age.
(v) a wh-clause : I expressed my surprise at what he said.

Prepositions are positioned before nouns or pronouns. But sometimes they appear to have no nouns/pronouns as their objects at the end of a clause/sentence.

For Example :

(i) Wh questions : What are you looking at?
(ii) relative clauses: This is the book I have been looking for.
(iii) passives : I don’t speak until I am spoken to.
(iv) infinitives : There was no chair to sit on.
(v) exclamation : What a difficult situation he is in!

But, if we study carefully, we will find that in (i) the end-preposition ‘ at’ has the interrogative pronoun ‘what’ as its object and it has been shifted to the front of the sentence. Try to find the objects of other end-prepositions.

Prepositions can be grouped according to their functions. They can be

(i) Prepositions of place: by, beside, over, above, under, below, beneath, through, across, along, behind, before, between, opposite, off, towards, for, at, in, on, etc.

(ii) Prepositions of time: at, in, on, by, for, since, from to, till, until, between, during, et.

(iii) Other prepositions: like means of travel means of communication, instrument, agency, modes of payment, etc.

Prepositions of Place

AT: is used to show the exact point: house, station, village, etc.

Examples:

  • She is standing at the corner of the street / at the door / at the bus stop.
  • He lives at 95, Bapuji Nagar.
  • She works at the public library / at the city General Hospital.
  • The train arrived at Cuttack. (means Cuttack Railway Station)
  • They met at the club / at the station / at the party.
  • He is at school / at work / at the doctor’s.
  • He is sitting at a desk / at the table.
  • Candidates have to write their names at the top of/at the bottom of the page.

In: has the idea of being within a larger area; it also refers to a house or residence, when no specific one is mentioned. ‘In’ is used for places of work if they are buildings.

Examples;

  • He likes to spend the holiday in the country / in a village.
  • He lives in London / in China.
  • My brother works in a bank / in an office / in a factory / in a shop.
  • He is sitting in the corner of the room.
  • He lives in Bapuji Nagar. Stand in a queue / in a line.
  • He is playing in the playground / He is working in the field.
  • He put the plates in the cupboard.

On :

(a) If the places of work are not buildings, ‘on’ is used :

Examples:

  • He is working on a farm / on a rubber plantation.
  • The meeting was held on the premises / on the campus of the college.

(b) ‘On’ is used to express the idea of ‘touching’ ‘close contact’ :

Examples:

  • There is a notice on the notice board / on the wall.
  • He is sitting on the grass / on the bench / on a chair (but in an armchair) / on the floor.
  • He kept his books on the shelf.
  • He is standing on the balcony.

(c) ‘On’ is used to indicate proximity, to mean ‘close to’.

  • He is sitting on my left / on my right.
  • Haridwar is on the Ganges.
  • Cuttack-on-Mahanadi, a village on the frontier, a house on the main road, a town on the coast, trees on both sides of the river.

(d) He lives on an island (you can see water all around).

(e) By / Beside :

Examples:

  • He is sitting by / beside me / by my side (at my side

‘Over’ and ‘Above’ :

‘Over’ means both ‘vertically above’ and ‘higher than’, whereas ‘above’ means ‘ higher than’

Examples:

  • The airplane is flying over the head. (vertically above)
  • He hung a calendar over the fireplace.
  • There is a temple above the house. (at a higher level)
  • Attendants held a large umbrella over/above the chief’s head.

(a) ‘Over’ has also the meaning of ‘across’, ‘from one side to the other; ‘to the other side’, in every part of’

Examples:

  • There is a bridge over the river.
  • He jumped over the brook. He climbed over the wall.
  • He is famous all over the world. He traveled all over Europe.

(b) Both ‘over’ and ‘above’ express the sense of greater in number, weight, and ‘more than’.

Examples;

  • Applicants over/above the age of 30 must not apply.

Under, Below, and Beneath :

‘Under’ indicates a position lower than, it also means ‘directly, below’.

Examples:

  • The cat is sitting under the table.
  • He is sitting under the tree.
  • She is carrying her handbag under her arm.
  • He hid his face under the bedclothes.

(a) ‘Under’

is also figuratively used to mean ‘less than’.

Children under the age of five cannot be admitted to this school.
His income per month is under five thousand rupees. He has about fifty workers under him. (It shows his authority or power)

(b)’Below’ :

It means ‘lower than’.

Examples:

  • When the sun sets, it goes below the horizon.
  • Shall I write my name below the line?
  • Your work is below the average.
  • He must be below (under) sixty years of age.

(c) Beneath :

It means ‘directly under something’ ‘to or in a lower position than something’.

Examples:

  • The dolphins disappeared beneath the waves.
  • The ground was slippery beneath her.

It is used figuratively to mean a lower or less important job, position, and rank.

Examples:

  • She has married beneath her.
  • He regarded Prime Ministership itself as beneath his dignity.

Through :

It means entering at one side, on one surface, etc., and coming out at the other.

Examples;

  • The road goes through the forest.
  • The Mahanadi flows through Odisha.

It is also figuratively used.

Examples;

  • He has come through many hardships.

Across :

It means ‘from one side to the other’.

Examples:

  • There is a bridge across the river.
  • Draw a line across the page.

It also means ‘at / on the other side of’ :

Examples:

  • The house is just across the street.

Along :

It means ‘in a line from one end to the other’ :

Examples:

  • Trees grow along the bank of the river.
  • There are a lot of shops along this street.

It means ‘in the direction of the length of’ :

Examples;

  • He walked along the road.

Behind :

It means ‘at or towards the back of something’ :

Examples:

  • The boy was hiding behind a tree.
  • There is an orchard behind the house.

It also means ‘not having made so much progress as’ :

Examples:

  • She is behind other girls in sewing / in mathematics.

Before :

it means ‘in front of ’ :

Examples:

  • The priest stood before the altar.

Between / Among :

‘Between’ is used when we speak of two persons or things. Among is used when we speak of three or more people or things.

Examples:

  • Amar lives somewhere between the university and the hospital.
  • The Municipality is building a new road between the police station and the railway station.
  • Luxemburg lies between Belgium, Germany, and France.
  • The sweets were distributed among the children.

Against :

It means ‘next to’, ‘touching an upright surface’.

Examples:

  • There was a ladder against the wall.
  • He is leaning against the wall.

It means movement in the opposite direction.

Example:

  • He is sailing against the wind.

Opposite :

It means facing each other.

Examples;

  • There is a temple just opposite my house.
  • Ram is sitting opposite Gopal.

In front of :

He is standing in front of the class. (He is facing the students.)

Examples:

  • There are some trees in front of the house.

(Trees are there close to the front part of the house.)

  • There is a man standing in front of me.

(I am facing the man and the man is very near to me.)

Off, out of, from are used for direction :

‘Off’ has the meaning ‘from the surface of’ and ‘down from’.

Examples;

  • Take the book off the table.
  • He fell off the horse.

Out of : It means ‘from the interior’.

Examples:

  • He took the handkerchief out of his pocket.

‘From’

Examples;

  • They ran from the place of the murder.

To, towards, for are used for direction.

Examples;

  • He is ran towards a safe place.
  • He is threw a ball to the children. [ He threw a stone at the dog.]
  • He left for home.
  • He set off for London.

Prepositions of Time

[ at, in, on, for, since, by, from, to, till, until, between, during, after, before ]

At

t It is used with exact point of time and with the names of festivals.

e.g. He arrived here at three o’clock / at half past ten / at midday / at midnight / at dawn / at daybreak / at sunrise / at sunset / at dusk / at the weekend / at weekends / at Christmas / at Easter / at Holi / at Diwali / at the New Year.

Example;

  • He is in bed at this moment. He was in bed at that moment.

In

It is used with seasons, years and parts of months and days.

e.g. He came here in winter / in summer / in 2005 / in January / in the morning / in the afternoon / in the evening / in the twilight / in the night (but at night).

Examples;

  • It is used with the Future Time to show the period at the end of which an action will happen.

e.g. This project will be finished in six months’ time.
Examples;

  • He will arrive in ten minutes.
  • It is used to show a period of time.

e.g. It was done in a day.

Examples:

  • It happened in my childhood / in my schooldays / in my youth / in my old age.

On

It is used with specific dates and days.

e.g. I saw her on March 15, 2005 / on 15(th) March / on Thursday / on a Sunday morning / on a winter evening / on a fine morning / on her birthday / on the occasion of her 20th birthday / on New Year’s Day / on Christmas evening / on the Republic Day / on the evening of 15 August (but in the evening on 15 August) / on that day

By

It is used to show the latest time at which an action will be finished. It is usually used with the Future Time.

e.g. The show will probably be over by eight o’clock.
Applications must reach the office by 20th June.

For

It is used with a period of time.

e.g. He has lived here for one year / for the last year / for the last three years. It rained for three hours.

Since:

It is used with a point of time in the past from which some action began and continues until the time of speaking. It is generally used with Perfect Tense (either Simple or Continuous).

e.g. It has been raining since 6 o’clock this morning / since Monday last / since last week.

I have lived (have been living) here since 2000 / since last January / since Jan. 2000 / since 15 Jan. 2000 / since childhood / since last year / since I was born.

From … to / till / until

e.g. The road will be closed from Friday evening to / till /until Monday morning.

Examples:

  • Without using ‘from’ we can also use ‘till / until’.

e.g. The book fair continued till/until Friday.

Between

Example:

  • You can see the doctor between 8 a.m. and 12 noon.

During

It is with an action that took place or is to take place.

e.g. The fire broke out during the night.
He was absent from home during the vacation / during the holidays. He lost his legs during the war. I will see you during the week.

Some phrases indicating time : On time / in (good) time

On time :

It is used with an action or event taking place at the exact or correct time and as per schedule or timetable.

Examples:

  • The train arrived at the station on time.
  • The teacher came to the class on time.
  • The magic show started on time.

In (good) time :

It means ‘earlier than’.

e.g. He reached the airport in time to see his friend off.
He arrived in time to attend the meeting.

Prepositions, ‘on’, ‘in’ are not used with some adverbials like next morning, last week, last Monday, next Monday, yesterday, tomorrow, today, this morning, this week, every morning, and every week.

e.g. He will visit his uncle’s house next Friday (not ‘on next Friday’) But we can say – He will visit his uncle’s house on Friday next.
He saw his friend last Monday. (he saw his friend on Monday last). He went to Kanpur last month (not ‘in last month’).
He came here this morning (not ‘in this morning’)

Prepositions indicating means of travel

He goes to college daily by bus / by car / by train / by taxi / bicycle / rickshaw. We can say – by air / by aeroplane / by sea / by ship / by water / by boat / by road / by land.

But if an article (a, the) is used before the means of travel, the preposition ‘on’ or ‘in’ is usually used :

He went to college on his / a / the bicycle / on the / a bus / on the train / on the rickshaw / on the motorbike / on horseback / on foot. He went to London on the / a plane / on a ship. But for ‘car’ and ‘boat’ ‘in’ is generally used.
He went to Bhubaneswar in a car.

Modes of Communication

He sent the message by post / by cable / by telegram / by telephone / by hand / by letter / by radio / by e-mail / by mail.

He talked to his friend by telephone. But we say – He talked about this on/over the telephone. He is watching the news on television.

He heard an interesting programme on the radio.

Mode of payment

He paid the bill by cheque / by credit card / in cash.

Prepositions of instrument

With: He wrote the letter with a pen / with a pencil.
He cut the apple with a knife.
He saw the accident with his own eyes.
He is walking with a stick.
He took something with both hands.

But we say– The letter was written in ink / in pencil. The picture was painted in oils.

Prepositions of agency, means, instrumentality

Examples:

  • The temple was designed by Rabi. (agency)
  • He makes a living by teaching. (means)
  • He was killed by lightning. (instrumentality)
  • The man was killed by a falling chimney.

Idiomatic uses of Prepositions

at playby chance / by accidentin need
at workby designin a hurry
at heartby mistakein debt
at breakfast/lunchby namein danger
at dinnerby sightin fun
at table (having a meal)by day (during the day)in particular
at homeby nightin trouble
at willby good fortunein general
at easeby oneselfin due course
at lastby no meansin short
at lengthby all meansin short
at handby surprisein brief
at randomfor sale, for pleasurein a word
at restin allin work (having a job)
at once (immediately)in the end
on businesson the wholein use
on fireon duty/guardout of control
on holidayon the other handout of use
on foot / on horsebackon leaveout of danger
on saleon a visitout of work
on purposeon picnicout of date
on (an / the) averageon a journeyout of question
on duty/guardon one’s wayout of sight
on no accountout of order
on second thoughtsout of order
under control
within hearing
within reach

Some verbs are followed by definite prepositions.

If the preposition can be changed, the meaning of the sentence also changes. Here are some verbs followed by definite prepositions.

  1. Inquire / remind / worry + about
  2. Inquire + after
  3. Protest / warn + against
  4. Aim / knock / smile + at
  5. Admire / blame / leave / provide / search / thank + for
  6. Die / differ / exempt / hear / made / prevent / recover / save + from
  7. Believe / deal / interfere / invest / specialise / trust + in
  8. Accuse / approve / boast / complain / consist / cure / die / made / remind / rob / warn + of
  9. Agree / attend / congratulate / depend / insist / knock / live / spend + on
  10. Worry + over
  11. Agree / appeal / apologies / apply / attend / belong / compare / complain / invite / object / prefer +to
  12. Agree / appeal / apologies / apply / attend / belong / compare / complain / invite / object / prefer +to

Use of some prepositions are given below :

Inquire about: He inquired about the advertisement in the newspaper.
Inquire after: He called me aside to inquire after my daughter.
Warn against: He warned me against swimming in the sea.
Warn of: He warned me of danger.
Die of: He died of cholera / his illness / old age / hunger.
Die from: He died from overeating/wounds/starvation.
Complain of: He complained of a pain in his chest/toothache.
Complain to: He complained to the headmaster about lack of good drinking water.
Complain about: He complained to the police about the theft in his house.
Agree to: They agreed to my proposal.
Agree with: Hari agreed with me on this point.
Agree on: They all agreed on the date of examination.
Remind about: He reminded me about the meeting of 6 o’clock.
Remind of: The bicycle reminded him of his young days.
Made of:The ring is made of gold.
Made from: Butter is made from milk.
: Flour is made from wheat.
Compare with: He compared Shakespeare with Kalidas.
Compare to: The poet compared her face to the moon. (between two dissimilar things)

Adjectives followed by definite prepositions :

There are some adjectives which are followed by definite prepositions.

For Example :

  1. Anxious / careful / careless / excited / sorry / worried + about
  2. Angry / delighted / good / bad / quick / shocked / surprised + at
  3. Shocked / surprised + by
  4. Eligible / fit / responsible / sorry / useful + for
  5. Absent / different + from
  6. Blind / interested + in
  7. Afraid / ashamed / aware / capable / careful / certain / confident / conscious / envious / fond / full / hopeful / innocent / jealous / proud / sure / tired / worthy + of
  8. Keen + on
  9. Applicable / blind / familiar / faithful / grateful / harmful / indifferent / kind / known / identical / loyal / useful + to
  10. affectionate + towards
  11. Angry / careful / delighted / disappointed / disgusted / familiar / ill / pleased / satisfied + with

Nouns followed by definite prepositions :

Some nouns are usually followed by definite prepositions.

For Example :

  1. Opinion / view + about
  2. Resemblance + between
  3. Admiration / attraction / appetite / cause / cure / demand / dislike / love / pity / reason / remedy / room / sympathy + for
  4. Belief / difficulty / success + in
  5. Advantage / cause / knowledge / proof + of
  6. Effect / influence / opinion / view + on
  7. Access / alternative / consent / resemblance / solution + to
  8. Attitude / duty + towards
  9. Difficulty + with

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