|Prepositions of Time|
|Prepositions of Direction||Prepositional Phrases|
Prepositions cause more confusion than almost any other part of the English language, and yet we use prepositions more often than any other type of word. Prepositions are necessary to form and connect phrases that show, define, or create a relationship between other words in the sentence. These relationships can be of direction, place, time, cause, manner and amount. Prepositions are always followed by a noun or a pronoun (objects of the preposition), with the exception of the preposition to, which is also used to form the infinitive of a verb (to walk, to run, to go, etc). Prepositional phrases, like idioms, are best learned by listening and reading as much as possible. There are over 100 prepositions in English, many of which have more than one meaning. This page only discusses some of them. If you have a question about a particular preposition, please e-mail your questions to us, or ask in the class.
List of English Prepositions (click on link)
It shows this cause or purpose:
Preposition or Phrase
|A general point or target||at||Jack looked at new cars Sunday. He looks at them every chance he gets.|
|A specific point or location||at, to||The driver shook his fist in anger at the woman who cut him off in traffic.
They drove to the beach.
|A goal or purpose||for||Edward is studying for an engineering degree.|
|An intended recipient||for||Alan bought flowers for Kathryn.|
|An actual recipient||to||Mary gives the book to her brother.|
by means of
on account of
|Peter got a better job because
of his hard work.
The boss gave him a raise for being the top salesman.
Miranda lost weight from being on a diet.
Jean was fired on account of being late each day.
The tortoise won the race through perseverance.
|He left at three o'clock.
We will clean the car on Wednesday
Tony was born in 1964.
My parents will be on vacation for two weeks.
|indicating position or location||
|Clay was at the bank.
I think there are barracuda in those waters.
The Lone Ranger sat on his horse.
Why, in movies, do cars always break down at night near cemeteries?
Ned lives across the street from his mother-in-law.
When it thunders, the puppy hides under my bed.
When someone has to make a difficult choice between two equally strong possibilities, people may say, "You are between the devil and the deep blue sea."
Prepositions of Direction (to, into, onto)
Prepositions of Time and Location
phrases contain at the least one preposition and its object.
Objects of a preposition are noun phrases or gerund subordinate
clauses. In most cases, the object of the
preposition comes right after the preposition.
park. (in is the preposition, park is the object)
on the grass jumped into the
ran from the
(on is the preposition, grass is the object; into is the preposition,
air is the object;
When the object of the preposition is who, which, what, whom, that word may be at the beginning of the sentence or clause and the preposition might be later in the sentence. In some cases, the sentence can be re-formed with the preposition in front of the wh word, but in some, it cannot. Here are a few examples of sentences that can be re-phrased, and others that cannot be re-phrased:
Who are you whistling at?
Correct: At whom are you whistling? (In this sentence, the word who must be changed to whom, because when you use who after a preposition, it must be changed. This is the only wh word that changes.)
Incorrect: At who are you whistling?
Correct: Pecos Bill trained the horse on which you're riding.
Incorrect: Pecos Bill trained the horse which you're riding on.
Correct: What she works with are words.
Incorrect: With which she works are words.
Incorrect: Words are with
which she works.
Correct: What a mess you got us into!
Incorrect: You got us into what a mess!
Incorrect: Into what a mess you got us!
Sometimes the object of the preposition can be understood from the context
of the sentence:
of the sentence:
Artie remembered the movie she was referring to.
(Artie remembered the movie to which
she was referring.)
The lake is easy to drive to. (It is easy to
drive to the lake.)
Sometimes a sentence written in passive voice has a preposition but no object, if the subject would be the same as the object when written in the active voice.
Passive Voice: This house was lived in by an eccentric millionaire. (The preposition in has no object in this sentence).
Active Voice: An eccentric millionaire lived in this house. (millionaire is the subject, house is the direct object).
phrases can act as noun modifiers, adverbials, and complements to verbs or
The clown with the big feet was chasing the clown
with the red nose, while the
ringmaster in the top hat watched.
The diva in the
diamond tiara with gold settings looked very frail. (You can use two
prepositional phrases as noun modifiers, next to each other.)
are words or phrases that provide information about
when, where, how, or why things
happen. They are generally
found in the predicate of a clause. They
are often at the beginning of an entire clause and are written in front of the subject
of that clause. In that case,
separate the adverbial by a comma. Time
and place adverbials are often prepositional phrases.
By noon, Logan was starving.
eight o’clock, my alarm goes off.
Jenna left the mall before closing time.
At the mall, she spent too much money.
Before the storm, we hurried to close the windows.
During the storm, we hid in the closet.
Monday, Reggie went to court. After
court, Reggie went to jail.
the shed, a maniac lurked. In his sleigh, Santa checked his list.
There are a few verbs that can only be used with certain specific prepositions and need a prepositional phrase in order to make the sentence understandable. Some of these verbs are depend, rely, and deprive.
I depend. (not a complete thought) I depend on the kindness of strangers. (complete)
She relies. (not
a complete thought) She
relies on him to drive her to school every day. (complete)
Rely and depend need on or
No other prepositions make sense.
be used with of.
Correct: Ray deprived Hal of his award.
Correct: Hal blamed Ray for depriving him of the award.
Incorrect: Ray deprived.
Incorrect: Ray deprived Hal from his award.
Incorrect: Ray deprived Hal out of his award.
There are certain adjectives that can only be used with specific
A dictionary may help you learn these, or you will just have to depend on
observation and experience.
Correct: Johanna is
happy with her
new hairstyle. (Not glad
with it, nor joyous with it.)
Correct: Jay is happy for Johanna. Jay is glad for Johanna.
Correct: Everyone is happy with Johanna’s new look.
Incorrect: Jay is joyous for Johanna.