English Grammar 101: Prepositions

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Prepositions are used to link nouns and pronouns to other words within a sentence. The words linked to are called objects.

Usually prepositions show a spatial or temporal relationship between the noun and the object, like in the example below:

The cat is under the table.

Cat is the noun. Under is the preposition. Table is the object.

Here is a list with the most common prepositions: about, above, after, among, around, along, at, before, behind, beneath, beside, between, by, down, from, in, into, like, near, of, off, on, out, over, through, to, up, upon, under, and with.

Notice that you can also have a prepositional phrase, which is formed by the preposition and its object. A preposition phrase can function as adverb, adjective or noun. For example:

The dog was running under the rain.

The prepositional phrase “under the rain” acts as an adverb, specifying where the dog was running.

Here are some quotations from newspapers that illustrate the usage of prepositions:

… and sewer pipes over the next decade.It is a battle of titans, raging just inches beneath our feet.“Things are moving so fast,” said Reese Tisdale, president of … (www.nytimes.com)

… he committed. In rejecting a monarchy, it is clear that the founding fathers had no intention of placing a president above the law.The time has come to subpoena Mr. Trump and let the courts determine … (www.nytimes.com)

… down on the new industry.For a time on Wednesday, the price of Bitcoin dipped below $10,000 — taking it down to about half what it was at its peak last month. … (www.nytimes.com)

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33 thoughts on “English Grammar 101: Prepositions”

  1. Notice that in the examples, each preposition has an object. For example, in the sentence “He ran under the car” “under” is the preposition, and “car” is the object of that preposition. When correctly used, prepositions have objects, which is why we don’t end sentences with prepositions. If the preposition is the last word in the sentence, it can’t be followed by the object it needs.

    Since this is a very common issue, we added it to our training manual, which we use in-house with our editors.

  2. When do you use “on” or “in” in front of a date? i.e…
    He was found on/in January 23, 2008
    His next payment is due on/in March 2008?

  3. I really do’nt know when to use the words By and at, especialy when i want to talk about event heppen at a particular time.Can i say for example i knock oof by 12:45 or i have to say i knock oof at 12:45, Which one is approprite to use between these two words?

  4. I had difficulty teaching sixth graders exactly what a preposition was about 30 years ago. The book definition, that a preposition shows the relationship between two nouns, just didn’t work for the children. A friend suggested, “A preposition can go anywhere a squirrel can.” That worked.

  5. Hey! I don’t known when to use “effort of” and “effort by”. Is there usage something to do we a group or an individual; an authorized body or an authorized individual?

  6. I would like know the correct form of at or in when refering to a place. For example: ….makes the social activity at the interior space more visible.
    ….makes the social activity in the interior space more visible.

    What is the correct one and why?
    Is there a general rule for using prepositions?

  7. I really don’t know when to use the words above or on, especially when i want to talk about event happen at a particular time. may i say such as The pen is above the table or the pen is on the table which one is suitable to use between these two words?

  8. R Suresh:

    Good question. We frequently encounter this confusion when we work on documents by non-native speakers.

    If the event happens at a particular time, use ON. Ex: He received his gift on November 13, 2008.

    If the event happened during a time range, use IN. Ex: He received his gift in November, 2008.

    Regarding your pen (a red pen, I hope): In most cases, the pen will be ON the table. However, if it is on a shelf or is in some way placed on something else that is above the table, the pen is above the table. Two examples may help clarify.

    1. The plate is on the table.
    2. The plate is on a shelf, and the shelf is above the table, so the plate is also above the table.


    Think about what is happening in your examples. You are describing something (social activity) that occurs WITHIN a confined space, so IN is more appropriate. This is like R. Suresh’s question about dates.

    Something happens IN (inside, within) an area, but it happens AT a specific place. This is similar to R. Suresh’s question.

    I work IN a building. I work AT 1500 Weston Street.
    I sleep IN the bedroom. I sleep ON the bed.
    I was born IN March. I was born ON March 5.
    The battle occurred IN Belgium. The battle occurred AT Waterloo.
    [Yes, I know. The battle actually occurred NEAR Waterloo.]

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    1. INTO
    2. BESIDE
    3. BENEATH
    4. BEHIND
    5. BEFORE
    6. NEAR
    7. OFF
    8. OUT

  10. Most people think, that English is easy to learn.But,this is not true.in my opinion, if a person really needs to learn. I have to work it by myself .And go and check all answers,everywhere.Take out my shy person and face the difficulties,that way Ican be proud of myself otherway you can’t be an ecellent English speaker. Iwish the best for you . mohamed@

  11. By – She came by a bus.
    At – If you use at as time preposition – it is used before clock time at 6pm .
    Place preposition – She is standing at a bus stand.

  12. Vivek

    Am I right in thinking that :

    “Place preposition – She is standing at a bus stand”
    Vivek on July 6, 2010 2:18 am

    “She is standing by a bus stand/stop”, would this be correct?
    If “She” was close to it but not under it or right next to it, or if the bus stand/stop was the closest “landmark” to it.

    It all depends on usage me thinks!


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  14. Hi,

    As per one of yours example i knock off by 12:45 or i have to say i knock off at 12:45, Which one is approprite to use between these two words?

    In the above context BY is used when you are not sure that if you will be reaching there at exactly 1245 may be you might reach before that, but within that specific time. But the usage of ‘AT’ implies that you will reach there at exactly 1245

  15. Do you have an easy explanation for the difference in usage between “of” and “from”? Thank you for you help! (for Germand learners)

  16. Why we should on the in preposition; ex.
    On the wall = why noy on wall
    on the dood = why on door

    at the corner = why at corner
    at the pass station = why no at pass station

    Please explain to me so I can understand.



  17. I remember learning a complete list of prepositions by my wonderful 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Carlie, at Warner Junior High School in Wilmington, Delaware, back in the early 1960’s. She made us learn them in order and started like this (i think): “In, out, inside, outside, up, down, above, below, to, for with, from, by, within, without, through, throughout…” I can’t remember the rest. Can anyone? Also, a few years ago, a co-worker recited a different order. I’d be interested in both jingles.

  18. For Cheryl, September 20, 2011. We, too, memorized a list of prepositions in the early sixties and I’ve been searching for just such a list for several years and found it here! What follows is all I can recall. Now, at 71, I shall, once again, attempt to commit the rest to a failing memory
    Above across after against along among around at
    Beside between by
    Down during

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