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  • Writer's pictureKat Taylor

Exploring the basics: what are prepositions and how should I use them?

Cartoon of a tiger hiding in the grass with the text "Tiger hides in the grass", a great example of a preposition of place

A preposition is a word that typically comes before a noun or pronoun and shows the relationship between that noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence. Prepositions are essential for indicating location, time, direction, and other relationships between elements in a sentence.

Examples of common prepositions include in, on, at, by, with, to, from, under, over, between and many others. These words help provide context and clarify the relationships between different parts of a sentence.

Types of prepositions:

There are a few common types of preposition in the English language and these include

1. Simple prepositions: These are single-word prepositions that can indicate place (in, on, at, etc.), time (before, after, during, etc.) or direction (to, from, towards, etc.). Simple prepositions typically come after a verb and before an object. For example, "She stood between the cat and the mouse". Between could be used as a preposition of place or direction.

2. Compound (or complex) prepositions: These are prepositions made up of two or more words that function as a single preposition, such as in front of, because of, on top of, etc. For example, "My keys are in front of the TV."

3. Double prepositions: These are when two prepositions are used together in a sentence, like from under or across from. For example, "The cat leapt from under the car".

4. Phrasal prepositions: These are prepositions that consist of a preposition followed by a noun, pronoun, or gerund, like in spite of, by means of, in addition to, etc. For example, "She is in favour of the new proposal."

5. Participal prepositions: This is a type of preposition that is formed by combining a verb's past participle with a preposition, such as interested in, excited about, and concerned with.These combinations function as adjectives in a sentence. They have -ed-ing, and -en endings, just like participial adjectives. For example, "I have some questions regarding prepositions."

How to use prepositions in a sentence:

Prepositions are versatile and can be used in various ways to provide additional information in a sentence. They help clarify the relationships between different elements and contribute to the overall meaning of the sentence.

When using prepositions, it's important to pay attention to the context and ensure that the preposition accurately conveys the intended relationship between the words in the sentence. Practice using prepositions in different contexts to become more familiar with their usage and improve your overall language skills.

Here are a few more examples to help clarify.

1. "The book is on the table." In this sentence, the preposition "on" shows the relationship between the book and the table, indicating where the book is located.

2. "She walked to the store." Here, the preposition "to" indicates the direction of the action (walking) and shows where the person is going.

3. "I will meet you at the park." The preposition "at" specifies the location of the meeting, which is the park.

4. "He is studying for the exam." In this sentence, the preposition "for" indicates the purpose or reason for the action of studying.

5. "The cat jumped over the fence." The preposition "over" shows the movement of the cat in relation to the fence.

6. "She is sitting between two friends." The preposition "between" indicates the position of the person in relation to the two friends.

7. "The keys are under the mat." Here, the preposition "under" specifies the location of the keys in relation to the mat.

Prepositions play a crucial role in language by indicating relationships between elements in a sentence. By understanding how to use prepositions effectively, you can enhance your communication skills and convey your thoughts and ideas more clearly.


I hope you've found this series helpful, but if you still don't know your adjectives from your elbow, a professional proofreader like me can help polish your prose and make sure your writing is the best it can be. Get in touch today to see how I can help.


Photo by Waldemar on Unsplash.

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