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What is Preposition?

Preposition, as the name suggests, literally means that which is placed before.

A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence. It indicates location, direction, time, or the way in which different elements in a sentence relate to each other.

Prepositions are typically single words, such as in, on, with, at, under, over, between, through, beside, beneath, etc, and sometimes group of words, such as in regard to and with reference to. However, there are many prepositions in the English language and they are generally set before other words to connect them, and to indicate the relation which they bear to each other.

Prepositions are mostly placed before nounsOpens in new window and pronounsOpens in new window to show place, position, time or method and are used in a wide range of sentence structures, including:

  1. describe location as,

    • The cat is on the table.
  2. show time:

    • We will meet at 4:00 PM.
  3. indicate direction:

    • She walked through the forest.
  4. show possession:

    • The book belongs to Sarah.

Also, in the sentences below, the words in emphasis are prepositions:

  • He drew comic pictures on the wall.
  • The toy was found under the bed.
  • The party starts at 7pm.
  • She will visit Kenya in August.
  • They were discussing about the movie.
  • She reports to me.

Types of Preposition

Prepositions are generally classified into three classes: simple preposition, compound preposition and complex prepositions.

  1. Simple Prepositionsare the most common prepositions; they include: in, on, of, at, from, among, between, over, with, through, and without.
  2. Compound Prepositionsare usually a combination of two prepositions used together as one; they include: into, onto / on to (on to is British English, onto is American English), out of.
  3. Complex prepositionsThese are two or three word phrase that functions in the same way as a simple preposition, they include: according to, as well as, except for, in favor of, etc.

Prepositions frequently combine with other words in structure known as prepositional phraseOpens in new window. In this structure, a preposition is followed by a determinerOpens in new window and an adjectiveOpens in new window or two, followed by a pronounOpens in new window or nounOpens in new window known as object of the prepositionOpens in new window.

This whole phraseOpens in new window, in turn, takes on a modifying role:

  • acting as an adjective or an adverb,
  • locating something in time and space,
  • modifying a noun, or telling when or where or under what conditions something happened.

Characteristics of Preposition

Prepositions are important elements of language that serve to establish relationships between various elements in a sentence. They are typically short words that convey spatial, temporal, or logical relationships. Here are some key characteristics of prepositions:

  1. Location and Relationship

    Prepositions are used to show the relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other elements in a sentence, such as another noun, verb, or adjective. They help specify the location, direction, time, or manner of an action or state.

  2. Single Words

    Prepositions are typically single words, such as "in," "on," "with," "at," "under," "over," "between," "through," and "beneath." These words are used to connect various parts of a sentence.

  3. Prepositional Phrases

    Prepositions are often followed by one or more objects to create prepositional phrasesOpens in new window. For example, in the phrase "in the house," "in" is the preposition, and "the house" is the object of the preposition.

  4. Function

    Prepositions primarily serve a grammatical function in a sentence. They do not typically convey the main action or idea but help clarify the relationships between other words in the sentence.

  5. Variability

    Prepositions can change in meaning or usage in different contexts. For example, "in" can indicate location ("She is in the room") or time ("I will see you in an hour").

    The preposition is sometimes separated from the relative which it governs; for example, as, ("Whom shall I give it to?") instead of ("To whom shall I give it?") Placing it next to the word governed, is preferable.

  6. No Action Verbs

    Prepositions are not action verbs. Instead, they typically connect nouns or pronouns with the rest of the sentence and help clarify the relationships between them.

  7. Inseparable Prepositions

    Some prepositions, like "onto" and "into," must be used with their objects (e.g., "I jumped onto the bed"). These are called inseparable prepositions.

Understanding the characteristics and proper usage of prepositions is essential for constructing clear and grammatically correct sentences in English, as they help convey the spatial and temporal relationships between objects and actions in a sentence.

Talking of the Root ...

Preposition is derived from latin combination, prae, “before,” and positus, “placed”; and as mentioned, it is a word which generally comes before a noun or pronoun.

The peculiarity of a preposition is that it requires either a noun or pronoun to serve its purpose. Take for example, in the expression:

  • The boy fell upon

Instinctively the ear discovers the necessity of some noun or pronoun to make sense; as,

  • The boy fell upon the floor.

When the object is omitted after prepositions, they may be considered as adverbs, for example,

  • He walks about

But some grammarians, with good reason, still look at them as prepositions in either case, supposing the noun or pronoun to be understood; for example,

  • He walks about (the garden, is understood).

A number of the English prepositions are derived from the Saxon. Many of the prepositions are found in composition with other words, and they are called inseparable prepositions.

For example, con in connect, and fore in forego.

There are many of these prefixes derived from the Latin.

We sometimes find a combination of prepositions in a phrase; for example, on account of, according to. These may be called prepositional phrasesOpens in new window.

Prepositions frequently change the meaning of a sentence. Thus, the word difference may be followed by with, between, in, and through.

For Example:
  • Thomas had a difference (quarrel) with his brother.
  • There is a difference of opinion in many points between them.
  • The difference has arisen through your mistake.


  • Disappointed in a thing implies that the pleasure anticipated, previously to possession, was not afterwards realized; and
  • Disappointed of a thing implies that we have not received what we expected.

In the chart below are the principal prepositions in English:

FromBehindAccording to
AfterBeneathInstead of

Beside is generally given as the preposition, and besides as the adverb; but both forms of spelling are found as prepositions and adverbs.

AlongBetweenAmid, or Amidst
ByOut ofOver
ConcerningUnderneathAmong, or Amongst
WithoutAtSave, or But

Exceptional Forms

Some grammarians have classified the words till, until, since, among the list of prepositions; but this arrangement is unphilosophical; they should be considered as conjunctionsOpens in new window or adverbsOpens in new window.

  1. The words except and excepting are commonly, though incorrectly, classed among prepositions. The former may be considered as the imperative mood.

  2. The preposition on is frequently changed into o’ or a;. For example:

    • O’clock means on the clock;
    • aside, means on the side.
  3. Sometimes, we do say, I am going A riding, A hunting, A fishing; the a is put for the preposition on.

  4. The words above and below should be used before the word stairs; for example,

    • He is above stairs, and not below stairs.
  5. However, when there is motion implied, up and down should be used; for example,

    • He was going up stairs, when she was coming down.
  6. The preposition to is used before nouns of place when they follow verbs of motion; for example,

    • I went to Las Palmas.

    Also, the preposition at is used after the neuter verb to be; for example,

    • I was at Las Palmas.
  7. The preposition in is set before countries, cities, and large towns; for example,

    • He lives in England, and resides in Birmingham.
  8. Before villages, single houses, and cities which are in distant countries, at is used; for example,

    • He resided at Marseilles, and is now stopping at Richmond.
  9. Between refers to two things only; for more than two, among is used. Observe the following two sentences:

    • I sat between two very large people.
    • We split the profit among the four of us.

Care should be taken to use the proper prepositions after verbs. The appropriate prepositions after verbs, participles, etc., will be found on subsequent heading below.

Examples of Nouns, Verbs, Adjective that require particular construction as to the Prepositions:
Abashed atBereft ofDedicate to
Abhorrence ofBeset withDeduct from
Accused of, byBesmear withDeference towards
Acquit ofBesprinkle withDeliberate with, upon
Adapted toBestow on, uponDependent on
Adjoining toBetake toDerogatory to, from
Affectionate to, towardsBetroth toDescend from, into
Aggreable toBeware ofDetach from
Allied toBidder forDeter from, by
Amenable toCalculate on, toDetrimental to
Anger to, towardscall on, forDevolve on, upon
Angry withCapture ofDisagree with
Antipathy to, towardsCede toDiagreable to
Apart fromChange forDispense with
Appeal to, fromCharm withDoubted of
Appertain toComply withDiffer from
Apply to, for, atCompress intoDifference with, between, in, through
Application to, for, atConcerned forDissapointed of, in
Approve ofCondole withDisapprove of
Appropriate toConduce to, towardsDissent from
Apprise ofConducive toEager in, to
Ashamed ofConfer with, on, uponEncamp in, on, upon
Ascribe toConfide inEncounter (noun) with
Associated withConfident of, inEndow with
Aspire toConformable toEngaged in, with
Atone forConnive atEngagement with
Attain toConsonant to, withEnmity towards, against
Attach toConscious ofEnraged with, at
Attend on, upon, to, atConsign toEnvy towards
Attentive toConsist of, inEqual to
Attribute toConspire againstEquidistant from
Avail ofConspiracy agaisntErase from
Averse to, fromConversant withEscape from
Aversion towardscustomary forEssay (noun) on
Avert fromContent withExcel in
Awake fromContribute to, towardsException from
Backward inContrary toExemption from
Bargain with, forConverse withExpert at, in
Barter with, forConvinced of, byExpel from
The preposition from after this verb (expel) is not necessary, for expel means to drive from
Bear withDead in, toExport to, from
Behalf ofDear toExclude from
Believe inDebar fromFaithful to
Belong toDecide onFall under
Beneficial toDecorate withPamper with
Fasten toKnow ofPant for, after
Favorable toLaught atPart with
Fawn uponLavish inPartial to
Fight with, againstLiable toPartake of
Fire atMartyr for, toParticipate in
Fitted toMeddle in, withParty to
Flee fromMediate betweenPatient in
Follow afterMerciful towardsPeculiar to
Fraught withMix withPenetrate to, into
Frown on, uponModerate withPeopled by, with
Gaze atMotive forPerfect in
Gifted withMuse over, uponPerpendicular to
Glance atMystery aboutPersevere in
Glad at, ofNatural for, toPersist in
Glow withNeed ofPlead for, with
Glut withNeedful toPleased with
Graft into, uponNeglectful ofPresent at, to
Grapple withNegotiate withPrivilege of, in
Grieved withNew toProtest against
Grieve forNext toProvide with
Guilty ofNigh toPursuant to
Harmony withNear toRadiate from
Hateful toNonconformity withRail at
Hear of, fromNoncompliance withRank with
Hearken toNoxious toRavished with
Heed (noun) toNursery of, forReason with
Heedless ofObedience toRebel agaisnt
Heir toObey inRebound from
Hesitate in, to, aboutObject to, ofRecede from
Hide fromObnoxious toReceptacle for
Hie toObsequious toReclaim from
Hinted at, toObservance ofRecline against
Hover aboutObservations onReconcile to
Hinge onObstruction toRecover from
Hurl againstObvious toRecourse to
Inscribe uponOccured to, inReduce under
Insist upon, onOffence at, toRefrain from
Instil intoOffended withRegard to
Illustrative ofOperate uponReinstate in
Impart toOpportunity for, toRely upon
Impervious toOpposition toRepel by, with
Impressed withOration onReply to
Inconsistent withOrifice inRepose in
Incumbent onOrigin ofReproach with
Indefatigable inOriginated inReserve for
Indicative ofOrnament toResemble in
Indignant at, withOverture toResemblance to, in
Intent on, uponOverwhelmed withRescue from
Inveigh againstOwe toResign to
Resolve to, upon, onTipped withVictim of, to
Respond toTolerated byVictory over
Recoil fromTouched withVindication of
Reflect on, uponTrample on, underVexed at
Replete withTransition of, fromVolunteer to
Repugnant toTransported to, fromVain of
Resort toTroublesome toVerdict of, for, against
Respect forType ofVote for, against
Responsible forUnable toVoyage to
Revolting toUnacceptable toVoyage to
Share withUnaccustomed toVulnerable to
Scruple to, atUnacquainted withWade through, in
Search after, intoUnanimous inWager with
Speak of, about, toUnapproved of, byWarfare with
Shrink fromUnaware ofWarn of
Scoff atUnbelief inWeary of
Subscribe to, towardsUncalled forWheedle with
Tarry inUncharitable towardsWhine about
Taste for, ofUnequal toWish for
Tea withUnfrequented byWorry with
Tedious inUninterested inWrangle with
Teem withUnited in, withWreak upon, on
Tell ofUnkind towardsWrite to, of, about, for, against
Temporize in, withUnsuccessful inYearn over
Tending towardsUpbraid withYield to
Tendency to, towardsUnwelcome toYouthful in
Tenor ofUnworthy ofZeal in, towards, against, for
Terminate inUseful toZealous for, in
Testify to, of, againstVacancy inZest for
Think on, upon, ofVary in, withThirst for
Tied toVariance in, betweenVeneration for
Tinctured withVicissituded of
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