A preposition is a word that is used to describe the relationship between other words in a sentence. Prepositions are used before a noun or a pronoun to show its relationship with another word in the sentence. The noun or pronoun which follows a preposition is called its object.
The pronouns which are used after a preposition should be in the objective case always. Now Understand the following sentences:
- There is some water in the bottle. (the word in shows the relation between two things – water and bottle.)
- He is fond of his daughter. (the word of shows the relation between the adjective fond and the noun daughter.)
- He fell off the ladder. (the word off shows the relation between the verb fell and the noun ladder.)
Although Prepositions usually come at the starting or end of a sentence, But sometimes prepositions can also come at the end of the sentences, For example:
- The professor asked the students to indicate the reference book they are quoting from. (The preposition ‘From’ is ending the sentence)
- The professor asked the students to indicate from which reference book they are quoting.
Types of prepositions
Prepositions are classified into the following categories:
The most common and most used prepositions comes under this category. Some examples of Simple prepostions are ”at, in, for, to, with, on, off, out, etc”.
- He is in the office.
- She sat on the bench.
- She is angry with him.
The propositions which are generally formed by prefixing a Preposition to a Noun, an Adjective, or an Adverb are known as Compound Prepostions.
- The boys ran around the bench
- The book is inside the cupboard
- The fan is above the table
Phrase prepositions are the groups of words that serve as prepositions. The words like “according to, along with, because of, in front of, by means of, on behalf of, in accordance with, in addition to, with reference to and in spite of” are called compound prepositions.
- Owing to his ill health, he retired from business.
- He succeeded by dint of perseverance and hard work.
- She stood in front of the mirror.
- I can’t get along with him.
Important Rules of Prepositions
Following are listed the important rules of prepositions to make you understand of their correct usage.
Rule 1) Beside and besides:
Beside means ‘by the side of’. Besides means ‘in addition to’.
- They have a house beside the sea. (by the side of the sea)
- He stood beside me. (by my side)
- He plays the violin besides the piano and the guitar. (He plays three instruments.)
- Besides being a good actor, he is also a good singer. (= In addition to being a good actor, he is also a good singer.)
Rule 2) Since and for:
Since should be used with a point of time in the past. It is used with a present perfect tense. For is used only when you refer to a period of time.
- He has been absent since Tuesday. (NOT He has been absent for Tuesday.)
- I have been ill since last week.
- He has been absent for three days. (NOT He has been absent since three days.)
- I have been ill for two weeks.
For is also used to indicate Duration, For example:
- Incorrect: I will be attending the classes regularly since Monday.
- Correct: I will be attending the classes regularly from Monday.
Rule 3) From
Use from to show the starting point only when the end point is also mentioned. In other cases, use since.
• Incorrect: I have been waiting from two hours.
• Correct: I have been waiting for two hours.
Rule 4) Between and among:
Between is used to refer to two or three separate people or things, which means when only two parties are involved. Among is used when the reference is to a group of people or things which we do not see separately which means when more than two parties are involved.
Rule 5) By and with:
By is used to refer to the doer of the action. With is used to refer to the instrument with which the action is performed.
- The spider was killed by the boy.
- The boy killed the spider with a stone.
Rule 6) In and At:
In is usually used with large places – countries, districts, large cities etc. At is generally used for small and unimportant places like villages, small towns, etc. For example:
- We shall meet him at the club this evening.
- His brother lives in Paris.
- Divide the food among the children.
- Divide this food between Riya and Ahmed.
Note: This rule is not very rigidly followed. In is often used with small places. At, however, is seldom used for big places.
Rule 7) On, in, at and by:
At shows an exact point of time; on shows a more general point of time and in shows a period of time. For example:
- I have a meeting at 4 pm.
- The train leaves at 2 o’clock.
- I was born on a Monday.
- I was born on April 21st.
- I was born in January.
- We will visit them in the summer.
- It is very hot in the day but quite cold at night.
- We went to school on foot. (Always Use ‘on’)
- I will be leaving by 6 o’clock.
- I hope to finish the work by next week.
- She sat on a chair.
- He jumped upon his horse.
Rule 9) In, within:
With reference to time, in means at the end of a certain period; within means before the end of a certain period. For example:
- I will finish writing this book in three days. (at the end of three days)
- I will finish writing this book within three days. (before the end of three days.)
Rule 10) Into and Onto:
The difference between into and onto is similar to the difference between in and on.
- He threw the hat onto the roof.
- When she kissed the frog it turned into a handsome prince.
Rule 11) Before, across and in front of:
We do not normally use before to talk about position/place. Instead, we use it in front of. The opposite of in front of is behind. As a preposition, before normally indicates the time. It is the opposite of after. Across is also a preposition which means ‘from one side to the other’.
- There were hundreds of people in front of me in the queue.
- I need to be there before 8 pm. (NOT I need to be there in front of 8 pm.)
- My sister lives across the road.
Rule 12) Along:
The proposition along is used with nouns that refer to things with a long thin shape. Examples are road, river, corridor, line.
- She ran along the road.
- There are trees along the riverside. Commonly confused prepositions
- We had a discussion about money.
- He gave a lecture on finance.
Rule 13) Despite and in spite of:
Despite and in spite of mean exactly the same, but despite is more common than in spite of. Both expressions are used for saying that something happens although something else might have prevented it. Both of the following sentences are correct to use.
- I enjoyed the movie despite having a headache.
- I enjoyed the movie in spite of having a headache.
Note: Never use ‘of’ after ‘despite’. Always use ‘of’ after ‘in spite’.
Rule 14) Above and over:
Above and over can both mean ‘higher than’. Above is preferred when one thing is not directly over another. Over is preferred when one thing covers or touches another.
- The water came up above / over our waist.
- There is a temple above the lake. (The temple is not directly over the lake.)
- He put on a sweater over his shirt. (NOT He put on a sweater above his shirt.) In measurements of temperature and height, we use the above. In measurements of ages and speeds, we use over.
- The temperature never rose above 5 degrees Celsius.
- You have to be over 18 to see that film.
Rule 15) On and upon:
On is generally used to talk about things at rest. Upon is used about things in motion. For example: with foot, using ‘by’ with foot is incorrect).
By is also used to show the latest time at which an action will be finished. So it is usually used with a future tense.
Rule 16) About and On:
Both about and on can mean ‘regarding’. There is a slight difference of meaning. About used of the first sentence suggests that the discussion was ordinary. On used in the second sentence suggests that the lecture was serious or academic, suitable for specialists.
Rule 17) Across and through
The difference between across and through is similar to the difference meaning on and in. Through is used for movement in a three dimensional space, with things on all sides. Across cannot be used with that meaning. For example:
- We went through the wood. (We were in the wood.)
- The road goes through the forest.
- We walked across the desert. (We were in the desert.)
Rule 18) Across and over
Across and over can both be used to mean ‘on the other side of a line/road/bridge etc’. We prefer over when we say ‘on/to the other side of something high’. We prefer across when we say ‘on/to the other side of something flat’.
- There is a hospital across/over the border. (= There is a hospital on the other side of the border.)
- His shop is across/over the road. (= His shop is on the other side of the road.)
- He jumped across/over the stream.
- He climbed over the wall. (NOT He climbed across the wall.)
- We swam across the river. (NOT We swam over the river.)
Rule 19) Along and through
To talk about periods or activities, we prefer through. Along when used as a preposition is followed by a noun. Along is used to talk about movement on or beside a line. Along is used with nouns like road, river, line etc: words that refer to things with a long thin shape.
- We walked along the road.
- She was silent all through the journey. (NOT She was silent all along the journey.)
Rule 20) Compare to and compare with
To show likeness, compare is usually used with to. To show differences, compare is usually used with ‘with’. As a general rule, use compare with when differences are more important than similarities. Use compare to when similarities are more important.
- She likes to compare herself to her mother.
- We can’t compare dogs with cats. (There are far more differences between them than there are similarities.)
Common Mistakes in Usage of Verb with Prepositions
Below are some very common mistakes that candidates do in use of Prepositions :
1) Verbs After which No prepositions are used:
A) Resemble: We do not use any preposition after the verb ‘Resemble’. It means Resemble does not take a preposition before its object.
- Incorrect: This painting resembles to that painting which we saw yesterday.
- Correct: This painting resembles that painting which we saw yesterday.
- Incorrect: The baby resembles with her mother.
- Correct: The baby resembles her mother.
B) Enter: We do not use any Prepositions after ‘Enter’
- Incorrect – We entered into the compound.
- Correct – We entered the compound.
- Incorrect – Let’s discuss about your plans.
- Correct – Let’s discuss your plans.
- Incorrect – She lacks in tact.
- Correct -She lacks tact.
Same as these verbs, No prepositions are used with the verbs given below:
2) Write: When write has no direct object, we put to before the indirect object.
- Incorrect: He wrote me.
- Correct: He wrote to me.
- Incorrect: Write to me a letter.
- Correct: Write me a letter.
3) Explain: The verb explain is followed by direct object + preposition + indirect object.
- Incorrect: I shall explain them this.
- Correct: I shall explain this to them.
4) Invite: Invite takes the preposition to after it.
- Incorrect: He invited me in dinner.
- Correct: He invited me to dinner.
5) Reach: The verb reach does not take a preposition before its object.
- Incorrect: He reached to the station.
- Correct: He reached the station.
6) Ask : Ask is usually followed by indirect object + direct object.
- Incorrect: She did ask any question to him.
- Correct: She did not ask him any question.
7) Waste, spend
- Incorrect: We should not waste much time in small things of less importance.
- Correct: We should not waste much time on small things of less importance.
- Incorrect: He spent a lot of money in daughter’s wedding.
- Correct: He spent a lot of money on his daughter’s wedding.
Common Errors in Use of Prepositions
Some of the most common mistakes in the use of prepositions:
1) The prepositions in and on are used to show position. To say where things are going, we use into and onto.
- Incorrect: The ball rolled slowly in the goal.
- Correct: The ball rolled slowly into the goal.
- Incorrect: She ran in the room crying.
- Correct: She ran into the room crying.
2) We use in to say how soon something will happen. Within means ‘inside’ or ‘not beyond’.
- Incorrect: The train will arrive within five minutes.
- Correct: The train will arrive in five minutes.
- Incorrect: You need to complete this project in a month.
- Correct: You need to complete this project within a month.
- Incorrect: If you don’t live by your income, you will have to pay huge debts.
- Correct: If you don’t live within your income, you will will have to pay huge debts.
3) Through is used for movement in a three dimensional space.
- Incorrect: The ball went to the window ad fell on the ground.
- Correct: The ball went through the window and fell on the ground.
4) For Days, we use ‘On’, For Dates, we use ‘On’, For months we use, ‘In’, For seasons we use ‘In’, For particular time, we use ‘At’. For morning and evening, we use ‘In’.
For night, we use ‘At’. At: at 7 o’clock; at midday; at dinner; at Christmas
In: in the evening; in Easter week; in September; in (the) winter; in 1864; in the 20th century
On: on Friday; on April 1st; on Christmas Day
- Incorrect: He wrote the book in a month’s time.
- Correct: He wrote the book in a month.
- Incorrect: We usually go and see Grandmother on Sunday.
- Correct: We usually go and see Grandmother on Sundays.
5) Care for means ‘like’ or ‘be fond of’. If you care about something, you feel that it is important or interesting.
- Incorrect: I don’t care for your opinion.
- Correct: I don’t care about your opinion.
6) ‘Look at’ is used to to gaze in a specified direction. ‘To Look into’ is used to investigate something.
- Incorrect: The manager has promised to look at the matter.
- Correct: To manager has promised to look into the matter.
- Incorrect: What are you looking in?
- Correct: What are you looking at?
7) Since is used for ‘Point of Time’. From is used for ‘Period of Time’.
- Incorrect: It has been raining from Monday.
- Correct: It has been raining since Monday.
8) One of the major error that candidates do is use of with after ‘speaking’ –
- Incorrect: Who is the girl you were speaking with?
- Correct: Who is the girl you were speaking to?
Relations indicated by the use of prepositions
We use Prepositions to show various kinds of relations among the words in sentences. Some of the most important among them are as mentioned below:
• You must return before sunset.
• Wait till tomorrow.
• We waited for hours.
• She ran across the road
• The boy fell among the bushes
• The thief was hiding behind the almirah.
3) Reason and Purpose
• She died of malaria.
• He trembled with anger.
• Smoking is injurious to health.
• He cut the cake with a knife.
• They succeeded by hard work.
• He is a man of principles.
• Mumbai is the financial capital of India.
• I saw a boy with red hair.
5) Direction and Motion
• He fell into the well.
• She walked towards the market.
6) Method and manner
• The letter came by post.
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