February 16, 2016

What are Prepositions – and How Do You Use Them?

2 minute read

You’ll come across prepositions a lot in English – they’re a very common part of the language!

One of the reasons why is that they are used in a lot of different ways, which can sometimes make learning how to use them a little more difficult. So read on to find out how to use them correctly.

What are prepositions?

Prepositions are words that are used to link a noun or phrase to another part of the sentence. Some examples of prepositions are “on”, “in”, “to” and “at”.

You will find them used in lots of different ways and various contexts. The most common ways to use prepositions include using them to indicate time, the direction or location of an object, or to introduce something – and an individual preposition can be used in more ways than one.

How to use a preposition

Let’s take a look at some examples and how they can be used!

“He put the tiles on the wrong wall.”

“She is going to college in September.”

“I’ll meet you at 5.30.”

Prepositions are always used to indicate the relationship of a noun or phrase to something else. When using a preposition, you must always have the subject and verb before it, and follow it with a noun. You should never follow it with a verb!

Let’s have a closer look at some examples.

Prepositions of position

You can use prepositions to show where an object is positioned, in relation to something else, such as whether it is placed on the surface of something, inside something, or in another position.

Some common prepositions of position are:

On: “She placed the lid on the cooker.”

Above: “The plane flew over the houses.”

“In front of: “The books should go in front of the other items.”

Prepositions of time

Different prepositions can be used to indicate time in specific ways:

At: this can be used to indicate a specific time, for example:

“We are arriving at 22.50.”

In: this is used to express events taking place during lengthy periods of time, such as a month or year, for example:

“They first moved to the country in 1978.”

“We are going on holiday in March.”

On: Like “in” this is used for specific points in time – in this case, you use this preposition to indicate particular dates or days. For example:

“He’s moving in on Saturday.”

“I will need it back on the 17th.”

Your turn

Prepositions are used in a variety of ways, and the best way to get familiar with them is by looking out for them whenever you read. So read as much as possible, and see if you can highlight prepositions when you come across them.

A useful exercise to do is pointing out the prepositions found in a sentence, and describing the context they are used in. Are they showing time, location, position or something else?