Prepositions English Grammar

What is a Preposition?

A preposition is a word that usually precedes a noun, a pronoun or a gerund. The word which follows the preposition is called the object of the preposition. It expresses the relationship between its object and another word or idea in the sentence. 

Rachel kept the books in the shelf.

  • (The preposition ‘in’ expresses the spatial relationship between ‘the books’ and ‘the shelf’.)

The bull charged towards the matador.

  • (The preposition ‘towards’ expresses the directional relationship between ‘The bull’ and ‘the matador’.)

Types of Prepositions

There are five basic types of prepositions:

  1. Simple prepositions
  2. Compound prepositions
  3. Double prepositions
  4. Participial prepositions
  5. Phrase prepositions

Simple Prepositions 

One-word prepositions are known as simple prepositions.

inonbytoofftillthroughof
upoutwithfromfordownunderover
  • The girl in the blue dress is smiling at me.
  • There is a package for you from Australia.
  • I want to go through the papers one last time.

Compound Prepositions

Prepositions formed out of prefixing ‘a-’ or ‘be-’ with a noun or an adjective are known as compound prepositions.

alongbetweenbeneathacrossaboutbesidebeforeamidst
abovewithinwithoutbelowaroundunderneathagainstamong
  • Manish wants his family to go along with him.
  • Place the bolster between the two cushions. 
  • You should consume two pills after meals.

Double Prepositions 

Pairs of prepositions conveying the same idea are known as double prepositions

away fromalong withapart fromfrom behindup to
down onup onfrom insidein tooutside of
  • You have indeed lived up to your reputation. 
  • The child was lured away from its parents.
  • The seer had asked for nothing apart from some water.

Participial Prepositions 

When verbs ending in –ing or –ed/–en function as prepositions, they are called participial prepositions.

consideringnotwithstandingassuminggivenfollowing
  • Considering that he has an immaculate track record, we should give him another chance.
  • Assuming that the movie has not begun, we would miss the first 30 minutes even if we were to leave now.
  • Notwithstanding her initial dislike towards her husband, Shanti now dotes on him.

Phrase Prepositions

Phrase prepositions are formed when a group of words come together to function as a single unit.  There prepositions usually have the Preposition + Noun + Preposition structure.

PrepositionNounPrepositionPhrase Preposition
inaccordancewithin accordance with
bythe virtueofby the virtue of
inregardtoin regard to
infrontofin front of
  • The rituals were performed in accordance with the traditions. 
  • For the sake of argument, what if you are wrong?
  • The match was postponed owing to the bad weather.

Functions of Prepositions

Prepositions Indicating Place

Some prepositions indicate the spatial (related to space) relationship between the words in the sentence.

onaroundinatatopamidstinside
bythroughoutsideaboveunderafterdown
  • There are strange men standing at the door.
  • A scar could be seen above his left brow.
  • Is there an honest man amidst these liars?

Prepositions Indicating Time

Some prepositions indicate the temporal (related to time) relationship between the words in a sentence. 

onfromuntilduringinatforsincetill
  • They wed on the 23rd of December.
  • The boys sneaked out of the theatre during the interval.
  • The company has relied on the support of its investors since its inception.

Prepositions Indicating Destination

Some prepositions are used to indicate the direction of the nouns’ movement. 

towardstointoforinatforsincetill
  • The ship sailed towards the east.
  • The assailant took a shot at the Mayor.
  • The thieves made for the exit.

Prepositions Indicating Origin

Prepositions are used to indicate origin or source of an action or movement of the nouns.

fromout of
  • Tiny saplings sprouted out of the wet earth.
  • Naresh’s uncle has come from Ajmer.

Prepositions Indicating Motion

Some prepositions can be used to indicate the movement of the nouns in the sentence. 

acrossalongout ofawaypastthroughinto
  • The kitten sprinted across the room.
  • The secret was kept away from his own family.
  • This morning, my neighbour ran past my house screaming in fear.

Prepositions Indicating Purpose

Prepositions can be used to indicate the utility or purpose of the subject of the sentence.

for

  • Canoes were provided for transportation.
  • Dhruv had to buy books for school.

Prepositions Indicating Agent

Some prepositions indicate that something is responsible for an action done on the subject. The action is always expressed in the passive voice.

bywith
  • The refugees arrived at the new coast by sea.
  • The bride’s face is decorated with religious motifs.
  • Farida’s car was vandalised by hooligans. 

Prepositions Indicating Contrast or Concession

Some prepositions are used to express contrast between two ideas in a sentence.

fornotwithstandingwithfordespitewith
  • For a few exceptions, the little town is mostly crime-free.
  • Notwithstanding her claims, she did have a criminal background.
  • Despite all his wealth, he was far from content.

Prepositions Indicating Measure

Prepositions can be used to indicate measurement.

byinfor
  • Cloth is sold by the metre.
  • Philip shut his eyes for thirty seconds.
  • They completed the lap in two minutes.

Prepositions Indicating Possession

These prepositions are used to establish possession of a noun by the other. 

toof
  • The coat belongs to the gentleman wearing the top hat.
  • It is the decision of the council. 
  • The food was cooked in the honour of the guests.

General Rules for Prepositions

A preposition is always followed by a noun, a pronoun or a gerund. 

in the skyof themby speaking

Although it is preferable not to end a sentence with a preposition, exceptions are possible if the sentence features a relative pronoun.

This is the hotel where we were put up at.
This is the farmer whom he sold his cattle to.

The sentence can end in a preposition if it is in the interrogative form.

Is this what he asked for?
Where are we headed to?

In some cases, prepositions are left without an object. They are known as stranded prepositions.

We have a lot to complain about.
There is nothing to be afraid of.

A preposition is never followed by a verb.

Common Errors with Prepositions 

Difference between ‘for’ and ‘since’

  • The preposition ‘for’ indicates duration.
  • The preposition ‘since’ indicates the beginning of a duration.
I have been waiting here since 10:15 AM.
I have been waiting here for two hours.

Difference between ‘among’ and ‘between’

  • The preposition ‘among’ is used to refer to more than two things.
  • The preposition ‘between’ is used to refer to two things.
They shared it among the three of them.
The secret is safe between the two of us.

Collocations 

Adjectives

Adjectives such as ‘inferior’, ‘superior’, ‘junior’, ‘senior’, ‘prior’, ‘anterior’ and ‘posterior’ are followed by ‘to’.

  • The Pandavas were superior to the Kurus.

The adjective ‘preferable’ is also followed by the preposition ‘to’.

  • Death is preferable to ignominy.

The adjective ‘different’ is followed by the preposition ‘from’ or ‘to’.

  • The tribes are different from each other when it comes to rituals.

Nice’, ‘kind’, ‘silly’, ‘clever’, ‘sensible’, ‘intelligent’, ‘generous’, ‘rude’, ‘thoughtful’, ‘good’ and

reasonable’ are followed by the preposition ‘of’.

  • How silly of you!

Nice’, ‘kind’, ‘polite’ and ‘rude’ are followed by the preposition ‘to’.

  • Sharad was rude to the staff.

Happy’, ‘pleased’, ‘satisfied’ ‘disappointed’, ‘bored’, ‘fed up’ and ‘content’ are followed by the

preposition ‘with’.

  • I am satisfied with your work.

Excited’, ‘worried’, ‘sad’ and ‘anxious’ are followed by ‘about’.

  • Mother was worried about your future.

Sorry about’ doing something; ‘Sorry for’ something.

Full’, ‘short’ and ‘fond’ are followed by ‘of’.

  • Faisal is full of gratitude for you.

Nouns

Access’, ‘alternative’, ‘exception’, ‘reaction’, ‘confession’, ‘threat’ and ‘solution’ are all followed by ‘to’.

  • There are no exceptions to the rule.

Advantage’, ‘characteristic’, ‘difference’, ‘intention’, ‘notice’, ‘opinion’, ‘result’, ‘smell’, ‘use’,

taste’, ‘sound’ and ‘feel’ are all followed by the preposition ‘of’.

  • Most people love the smell of wet earth.

Love’, ‘hate’, ‘preference’, ‘need’, ‘reputation’, ‘talent’, ‘eye’ and ‘credit’ are all followed by the

preposition ‘for’.

  • There is an urgent need for skilled practitioners.

Verbs

Accuse’, ‘approve’, ‘dream’, ‘rid’ and ‘remind’ are followed by ‘of’.

  • He was accused of high treason.

Add’, ‘apologise’, ‘belong’, ‘complain’, ‘consent’, ‘explain’, ‘happen’, ‘introduce’, ‘invite’,

prefer’, ‘respond’ and  ‘speak’ are followed by ‘to’.

  • He apologised to his mother for his bad behavior.

Ask’, ‘blame’, ‘excuse’, ‘forgive’, ‘keep’, ‘pay’, ‘pray’, ‘search’, ‘vote’, ‘vouch’ and ‘work’ are

followed by ‘for’.

  • Tejas was blamed for the failure of the project.

Agree’, ‘comment’, ‘concentrate’, ‘depend’ and ‘insist’ are followed by ‘on’.

  • I want you to comment on this painting.