What are prepositions?
Prepositions are words that show the relationship between two other words (often nouns). They are most useful for connecting things to a location or a time.
I went to the shop.
At midday I will stop.
My phone is on the table.
Prepositions are an area where a lot of English learners make mistakes. You can learn some rules and common situations to use them in but these 2 methods of learning will help the most.
1. Use cloze testing (with an app such as ANKI)
With this method you simply take a sentence with a gap in it and fill it with the right preposition. e.g “They took the dog … the vet”. There are exercises for this online (including a quiz at the bottom of the page). To get the most from this though you will want to focus on your weaknesses. To do this you can either find an English teacher or a native-speaking partner (or even a foreign learner if they are good enough), they will help tell you where you are making mistakes. When you have found where your weaknesses are you can build your own ANKI cloze-deletion cards to memorize using prepositions in different situations.
2. Exposure (books, movies etc)
This method is less precise and will take longer but it will ensure your brain gets used to seeing the patterns and prepositions used in different ways. That being said, this method is also a lot simpler, just start immersing yourself with native material, use whatever you can as long as it is well produced. For bonus points while watching a movie or reading, try to point out where the prepositions are and how they are being used. This will mean you are doing more active learning than passive learning.
Remember, some natives have learned the rules for prepositions through formal study but… for a large majority of native English-speakers these things have just been learned through exposure. If you want to get to this level of English then you will also need a large amount of exposure!
List of commonly used prepositions in English
Now let’s see our prepositions used in some example sentences
- What are you talking about?
- Look at the clouds above you.
- I’m going across the bridge.
- I will go to bed after dinner.
- He is leaning against the wall.
- They walked along the beach.
- I am among my friends.
- I want to travel around the world someday.
- He arrived at his destination.
- You should arrive before 10:00.
- It’s behind you!
- The clouds are below the plane.
- He stood between the two trees.
- The city is beyond these mountains.
- Everyone but me went to the party.
- The cat is sitting by the lake.
- This letter is concerning the incident that happened yesterday.
- I’m happy despite having no money.
- He walked down the road.
- The kids go out to play during their lunch break.
- Everyone is going except for you.
- Following weeks of hard work, I was given a promotion.
- I bought this for you.
- Why did you take it from him?
- Shall we go in?
- I want you to work all week, that is including Saturday and Sunday.
- He put his hand into his bag.
- That cat is so cute, it looks like a baby.
- The shops are near to my house.
- What is the name of your boss?
- We need to get off the train soon.
- I need you to come to work on Saturday.
- I’m going out for a bit.
- The birds are flying over the mountain.
- two plus two is four.
- I haven’t been there since last year.
- We need to go through this tunnel to get to the other side.
- I lived in Europe throughout the nineties.
- Are you going to work?
- The car is coming towards us!
- The cat is under the table.
- I want you to work until 18:00.
- I climbed up the mountain.
- It fell upon the floor.
- Can you go with me?
- Real courage is found within.
- I can’t do this without you.
Some prepositions can be used for both time and location and can have a different meaning. Here is a chart showing some of these.
|Time prepositions||Example sentence||Location prepositions||Example sentence|
|at||I like to party at the weekend.||at||Meet me at the shop.|
|by||It needs to be done by Friday.||by||I’m by the coffee shop.|
|from||I start work from next Monday.||from||I came from home.|
|in||I only eat in the morning.||in||I’m in a restaurant.|
|on||We will meet on Wednesday.||on||My shoes are on the floor.|
|to||We are open from 9 to 5.||to||I’m going to work.|
Here is a sample paragraph with the prepositions highlighted:-
“I went to town at 15:00. I went to the bus stop and sat down. I got on the bus and sat at the back between two people. I needed to* get to town by 16:00 to meet my friend. I rang my friend and he said he was in a shoe shop. He also said I had to go there quickly because it was only open from 09:00 to 17:00. When I got there he was sitting on a chair and wearing some new shoes. In the evening we met our other friend by the restaurant. She said she had just come back from Spain. She said she would return there on Friday.”
*It’s important to note that ‘to’ in this situation is used to mark a verb as an infinitive and is not a preposition.
Prepositions practise exercise
Fill in the gap for each sentence:-