Prepositions Definition and Examples

What are Prepositions

Prepositions are words or groups of words that connect nouns and pronouns to the other parts of sentences. They are used in various roles, which include showing the place, time, direction, measurement, and several others. Some of the most common expressions used in everyday language are at, in, of, on, and to.

A lot of English speakers use prepositions without realizing or thinking about them. Although there are rules around their usage, prepositions are very much idiomatic by nature. Most of these consist of standard or fixed expressions that are independent of the general guidelines. Because of this, the best way to learn them is to memorize prepositional phrases – or chunks, if you will – rather than learning their individual meanings.

Explaining, studying, and using prepositions can be confusing and a bit of a challenge. But unlike other parts of speech such as nouns or verbs, there aren’t any new prepositions introduced over time. It’s important to remember the phrases they are used in by regular exposure to the English language. Watching a YouTube video, for example, will make you realize that prepositional phrases are used in almost all sentences and that some of them are fixed expressions that appear in English communication multiple times.

Here are some examples of prepositions in sentences:

  • We went to the mall.
  • The players ran across the field.
  • Kelly’s meeting is at 9:30 a.m.
  • It will take less time than in a bank.
  • You’ll drive through a tunnel on your way there.

Types of Prepositions According to Structure

Simple PrepositionsThese are the common or typical one-word, in, on, to, from, for, off, under, over, up
Double PrepositionsTwo simple prepositions appear either as one or two words. They often refer to directions.out of, across from, next to, into, onto, upon, without, within, out of
Compound PrepositionsConsist of simple prepositions and other parts of spite of, in front of, in the middle of, on behalf of, under cover of, in consideration to, according to, compared to
Participle PrepositionsVerbs that end in –ed, –ing, and –en can function can be used as prepositions. As prepositions, they are followed by nouns or pronouns.regarding, including, excluding, following, considering, given, notwithstanding, provided, concerning
Prepositional PhrasesPhrases that have both prepositions and their objects, which may include other parts of speech excluding verbs.on time, in time, at home, before work, in the room, after class, on the floor, with friends, on foot, by bus
Table of Prepositions According to Structure

Types of Prepositions According to Function

PlaceShows where someone or something is– Bran waited at the corner with his luggage.
– The file is on my table.
– Sylvie put the magazine in the drawer.
TimeAnswers the question “when.”– Your interview is at 3 p.m.
– We usually visit them in the summer.
– Sasha will be here before lunch.
DirectionRefers to people or things that are headed someplace. Sometimes classified as prepositions of location or spatial relationships– The squirrel scampered across the yard.
– We trekked through the mountain pass.
– Can you take the phone away from Jerry?  
CauseAnswers the question “why.” Sometimes classified with prepositions of effect or reason.– He missed the flight because of traffic.
– We’re currently looking for sponsors.
– The concert moved venues due to the rain.
MeasurementIndicates quality or quantity. Answers the question “how many” or “how much.”– Be careful with the bottle of wine.
– She got about 10,000 to 30,000 followers that day.
– We’ll be there by 5 o’clock.
MannerAnswers the question “how.”– Katsa shucked oysters with an ice pick.
– Bobby screamed out in surprise.
– We could hang hooks on the wall.
ComparisonShows similarities and differences.Between them, who is faster?
– Your taste in clothes is just like your cousin’s.
Unlike you, I walk the talk.
Table of Prepositions According to Function
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Prepositions Rules

Prepositions require objectsPrepositional phrases are made up of prepositions and their objects. While there are many sentence structures that split prepositional phrases, their objects are easily identifiable. Let’s look at some examples:

– Eason walked into the office with the mock-up.
– Jack and Jill went up the hill.
– Your cat is hiding under the couch.
PlacementWith the exception of some sentence structures, prepositions are almost always found before their objects: nouns and pronouns. For example:

– We were taking pictures around the property.
– This trail leads towards the temple.
– They drove past the area with an odd feeling of dread.

Take note that objects of prepositions function differently from objects of verbs. Objects of verbs typically “receive” actions. On the other hand, objects of prepositions are nouns or pronouns either referenced or affected by the preposition, which doesn’t necessarily receive an action.
CapitalizationWhen writing, don’t capitalize prepositions in titles except when they are the first words. For example:

Incorrect: The Quest For Water

Correct: The Quest for Water

Correct: In September, the Light Changes
Table of Preposition Rules
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Examples of Prepositions

1. Terry and Andy walked along the pavement in silence.

2. Would you be able to make it at 3 o’clock?

3. They sell the cord by the meter in this shop.

4. Dixon’s apartment is right across the street sign.

5. If I had to choose between them, I would go for silver.

6. You need to go past the dry cleaners to find the cafe.

7. The colors’ resolution in the movies is like a painting’s.

8. Because of his absences, they decided to let him go.

9. I can’t believe they were able to sell the house for 3 million.

10. The organization hired a translator for the Thai delegates.

Prepositions Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Prepositions of Direction

Choose the proper preposition from the options given.

1. For a while, I lived _______ the countryside.

a. in

b. on

2. Are they traveling _______ foot?

a. in

b. on

3. It’s _______ Rhonda to leave her post without saying a word.

a. between

b. like

4. _______ the popularity of her social media accounts, she has many sponsors.

a. Due to

b. Because

5. She had to cook _______ a slab of rock in the woods.

a. with

b. in


1. a: For a while, I lived in the countryside.

2. b: Are they traveling on foot?

3. b: It’s unlike Rhonda to leave her post without saying a word.

4. a: Due to the popularity of her social media accounts, she has many sponsors.

5. a: She had to cook with a slab of rock in the woods.

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Prepositions List

Below is a comprehensive list of the most common and widely used prepositions:

List of Common Prepositions
Opposite to
In front of
Next to
Common Prepositions Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Use Grammar ListsLanguage learning tools such as lists and tables can’t completely substitute books, but they are useful guides because they simplify complex grammar concepts into concise models, patterns, rules, and sentence examples. An excellent way to utilize this learning method is to create your own. It will naturally customize your material to whatever English subject you’re currently studying and tailor them to your learning preferences and language needs.
Use Audio-Visual ResourcesSelf-studying is an inescapable supplement to traditional classroom instruction. But you should use the proper tools to take full advantage of it. English language films, TV shows, social media channels, music, and podcasts are examples of these. Adding them to your routine will provide helpful insight into how native and non-native English speakers use the English language in different social, academic, and professional contexts. This will ultimately enhance your knowledge of language elements and improve your vocabulary and sentence construction skills.
Practical UseMany English language learners find studying English, especially challenging mainly because they live or study in countries where the language isn’t used in general. This puts them at an immediate disadvantage because the only real way to improve their language skills is to use English regularly. If you’re in the same situation, don’t lose heart. It’s important to remember that you have the ability to make an “English environment” for yourself. Organizing a study group with classmates and friends is a good starting point. You will have the means to explore English with people who share similar goals. Furthermore, you can nurture personal relationships with English speakers, native and non-native alike, which will strengthen your social and communication skills.
Table of Advice for English Learners
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Common Errors Made by English Learners

Common ErrorsExplanation/Examples
Wrong Preposition  Prepositions are difficult and confusing to study because each one can possess many meanings, each one of which has a distinctive function. It’s important to study the definitions of each preposition and be mindful of how they’re used in sentences. For example at the store doesn’t mean the same thing as in the store. The first one refers to something inside or around the store, while the second one means inside the store. Learn these differences and practice them in writing and speaking. Eventually, you’ll be able to pick the correct preposition that you need for your own sentences.
Infinitives  Verbs NEVER follow prepositions. Let’s look at some examples:

– I like to dance.

You may be confused at first glance, but the sentence doesn’t have a preposition. The word “to” is part of the infinitive participle “to dance,” in this case.

– The teacher scolded him for talking too loudly.

The word “talking” is derived from the verb “talk” but it functions as a gerund, which is used and recognized as a noun.

You’ll see many online blogs classify “to” as a preposition (which is one of its many uses as a word) but then continue to give infinitive participles as examples. This is incorrect. To + verb is never a preposition.
Between you and IWhen pronouns are used as objects of the preposition, they are always in the objective case: me, us, you, him, her, it, them. This is the reason “between you and I” is incorrect. “Between you and me” is the correct form. Let’s look at other examples:

– You need to put cards in all of them.
– She was looking for him all morning.
– There was nobody else around me.
Too vs ToBe aware that it’s easy to confuse prepositions with other words, especially in writing. The most common errors are the following:

– “Between” and “among”

Between is used with two points or comparing two things, and among is used for larger groups or in the middle of a group.

– “Too” and “to”

Too is not a preposition. It’s an adverb that means “exaggeratedly” or “as well.”

– “Passed” and “past”

Passed is the past form of the word “pass” and isn’t a preposition.
Prepositions Common Errors Table

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Prepositions of Direction

Prepositions are some of the most widely used words in the English language. Mastering them is quite a feat, as each one can have multiple meanings and functions. However, they are rarely learned as individual words in traditional classroom instruction. In many instances, English learners acquire knowledge of prepositions through constant exposure to the language. They hear phrases spoken a certain way and add them to their own vocabulary. The following are some best practices when studying and using prepositions:

  1. Unless you’re studying to be a linguist or a specialist in the English language, you don’t really need to know the technicalities of grammar, and prepositions are one of the most perplexing topics you can ever come across. Study prepositional phrases instead. Listen to and try to remember how English speakers use these expressions and then try them out when you can. Sometimes there are no rules. It’s just the way some parts of the language are spoken. Why is it “in July” but “on July 4th?” Stop asking “Why do you use this and not that?” Instead, ask “How do you say this?” You will learn English more meaningfully that way.
  2. When uncertain, refer to a grammar list or a dictionary. Also, you don’t need to use prepositions all the time. If you’re having difficulty picking the right word, you can exercise your paraphrasing skills and reconstruct your sentence so they don’t have prepositions.
  3. Read, practice, talk. The more knowledge you have, the more natural and accurate your usage will be. Eventually, you won’t even have to think about it.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand forms of prepositions, prepositional phrases meaning and examples and prepositions.

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Prepositions of Frequently Asked Questions

Be aware that the terminology and scope of preposition types can vary from book to book. Some books may have 3 or 4 types, while some have 9. Typically, the types of prepositions are listed as time, place, movement, measure, manner, direction, comparison, and agency. Ultimately, if your goal is to communicate effectively, it’s not really about memorizing the types but rather using prepositions in their correct functions.

If you would like to take a closer look at each type, we recommend that you look through our blog. is written and maintained by language experts that have years of experience teaching English in many countries. We aim to present its essentials with self-directed instruction in mind.

Explore our grammar page, which includes a wide range of topics dedicated not only to each type of preposition but also to other grammatical topics.

The difference between them isn’t as notable as one might think: American English uses toward while British English uses towards. Outta is another example, which is the informal and slangy version of out of for some Americans, and round is the British English way of saying around.

Yes. There is no grammar rule that prohibits ending sentences with prepositions, despite the popular belief that it is incorrect. You will find many sentences ending in prepositions in this article and countless others in various literary works and publications.

Having said that, you probably should tread carefully when writing for academic or professional reasons. While it’s technically not wrong, ending sentences with prepositions is seen as unprofessional and sloppy in some circles. If you find yourself under these circumstances, try to rephrase your sentence so they don’t end with prepositions.

It lies in the appearance of motion. “In” refers to the place where a person or thing already is. On the other hand, We use the preposition “into” when we refer to people or things that are going or being put into another place or location.

Let’s simplify the difference through the sentences below:

– Betsy works like an assistant.
– Betsy works as an assistant.

The first sentence has a slightly negative implication. Betsy isn’t necessarily an assistant but she might be doing tasks that assistants do. Through a negative tone, we could infer that Betsy’s position is probably higher or lower than an assistant’s but she has to do the work associated with assistants.

Meanwhile, in the second sentence, it is very clear that Betsy’s profession is as an assistant. Remember that “like” is mostly used in comparing things or people, usually to refer to the similarity between them. On the hand, “as” means “in the same capacity of something or someone.”

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