Prepositions - Explore Meaning, Definition, Uses and Examples

‘I have kept your book.’ Don’t you think you want to know where your book is kept? Doesn’t the sentence look incomplete? It is to denote the position of the objects in a sentence that the prepositions are used in the English language. This article discusses the meaning, definition and uses of prepositions. There are also examples of prepositions given to help you understand how they are used in sentences and also an extensive list of prepositions for your reference.

Table of Contents

What is a Preposition?

A preposition is a short word that is employed in sentences to show the relationship nouns, pronouns or phrases have with other parts within the respective sentences. Prepositions are normally found positioned in the latter part of the sentence, but before a noun or pronoun.

Definition of a Preposition

A preposition is defined as “a word that connects a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun to another word, esp. to a verb, another noun, or an adjective”, according to the Cambridge Dictionary. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary says that a preposition is “a word or group of words, such as in, from, to, out of and on behalf of, used before a noun or pronoun to show place, position, time or method.”

The Collins Dictionary defines a preposition as “a word such as ‘by’, ‘for’, ‘into’, or ‘with’ which usually has a noun group as its object.” The Merriam Webster Dictionary provides a slightly different definition. According to it, a preposition is defined as “a function word that typically combines with a noun phrase to form a phrase which usually expresses a modification or predication.”

Uses of Prepositions

Prepositions are seen to show some key characteristics and perform some vital functions when used in sentences. Let us look at the various uses of prepositions in English.

  • They are used to show the direction of something.
  • They can refer to the time of something happening.
  • They can be used to denote the position or location of an object in the sentence.
  • They are also used to represent spatial relationships.
  • Prepositional phrases, in particular, can be used to do all of these when used in sentences.

Types of Prepositions

Based on the different uses and functions of prepositions, they can be divided into four main types. They are as follows:

  • Prepositions of Time – used to show when something is happening.

For example:

    • We will be meeting on Friday.
    • The supermarket will be closed from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
    • Can you come after some time?
    • We have been asked to work from home until the end of May.
    • The whole country was asked to stay home during the pandemic to ensure safety and well-being.
  • Prepositions of Place – indicate the place or position of something.

For example:

    • I have kept the book I borrowed from you on the table.
    • Henry hid behind the door.
    • The dog jumped over the fence.
    • Can you place the red roses in between the white daisies?
    • He was waiting in front of the EB office.
  • Prepositions of Direction – used to denote the direction in which something travels or moves.

For example:

    • The girl ran toward her father the moment she saw him.
    • Jerry jumped into the river to help his sister.
    • Veena passed the book to Priya.
    • When will Salvia be returning from London?
    • Neena lives across the street.
  • Prepositions of Location – employed to denote the location of a particular object.

For example:

    • Kenny would be staying at his cousin’s place for the weekend.
    • Make sure you keep all the toys back in its place after you play.
    • I lay on the floor for a really long time.
  • Prepositions of Spatial Relationship – used to denote an object’s movement away from the source and towards a source.

For example:

    • Navya sat leaning against the wall.
    • The circus was stationed opposite the children’s park.
    • Lakshmi sat beneath the trees.
    • Shankar sat beside the stairs.
    • We spent the evening walking around the lake.
  • Prepositional Phrase – a combination of a preposition and a noun(the object it is affecting).

For example:

    • See to it that you reach the venue on time.
    • The medicines you asked for are out of stock.
    • Why don’t we try taking classes outside for a change.
    • Make sure you fill in all the forms at once.
    • Salmaan was able to finish it only with the help of his friends.

Examples of Prepositions Used in Sentences

To know how exactly prepositions can be used in sentences, check out the following sentences.

  • I will be going to church in the morning.
  • She placed the plates on the dining table.
  • Baskar found the cat hiding under the bed.
  • Will you be with Raimy or Mazeeka?
  • I love sitting on the beach at night.
  • Rachel met Phoebe by the lake.
  • Finn stood opposite Lisa.
  • The grocery store is right in front of the bus stop.
  • My brother climbed onto the roof.
  • It feels great to sit beneath the trees and read.

List of Most Popular Prepositions for Everyday Communication

Given below is an extensive list of prepositions that you can make use of in your daily communication.

Examples of Prepositions

On

At

In

Over

Around

Through

Opposite to

In front of

Behind

Beneath

Beside

Above

Below

Under

Underneath

Down

Up

Out

With

Into

Onto

Across

After

Before

Near

Among

Along

Between

Toward

Away

From

To

Next to

By

Until

About

Commonly Confused Prepositions

With the huge number of prepositions in the English language, it almost seems impossible to have no confusion at all. Here is a list of prepositions that cause confusion among the users of the language.

  • In/On/At

These three prepositions can be used to depict both time and position. Take a look at the table below to have a better understanding of how it works.

Prepositions of Place

In

On

At

Can be used to show general locations like neighbourhoods, cities, countries and places with a boundary

Can be used to refer to more specific locations like streets, avenues, islands, surfaces and large vehicles

Can be used to refer to very specific locations

For example: I live in India.

We will be staying in a hotel tonight.

For example: Latha stays on the fourth floor.

The book you are looking for is on the rack.

For example: You can find us at the park.

She is at home now.

Prepositions of Time

In

On

At

Can be used to depict general timings like months, years, centuries and parts of days

Can be used to refer to dates, days of the week, days of the month and holidays with ‘day’ (for example – Republic day)

Can be used to denote very specific time, times of the day and holidays without ‘day’ (for example – Easter)

For example: Dan was born in 2000.

Technological development in the field of science and medicine reached its zenith in the 21st century.

For example: There is a national parade every year on Republic day.

All of us will be at home on Christmas day.

For example: We decided to meet at 4 p.m.

I wished my brother at midnight.

  • To/From

To and from are two other prepositions that create confusion.

To

From

Used to denote the end location

Used to denote the starting location

For example: We went to Sri Lanka with my family.

I gave my coat to Sandra.

For example: Have you started from Bangalore?

I received a letter from my father.

  • By/With

The prepositions by and with have various meanings. They sometimes appear to be confusing for a second language learner of English

By

With

Near or next to.

For example: Is the post office by the bus stop?

In the company of

For example: Glint went to Chennai with his friends.

A given time or not later than

For example: See that you reach the exam hall by 8:30 a.m.

In addition to

For example: would you like to have tea with breakfast?

Denotes the doer of the action mentioned in a sentence

For example: The poem was written by my brother.

By means of

For example: I cut my birthday cake with a fruit knife.

Frequently Asked Questions on Prepositions in English

What is a preposition?

A preposition is a short word that is employed in sentences to show the relationship of nouns, pronouns or phrases with other parts within the respective sentences. Prepositions are normally found positioned in the latter part of the sentence.

What is the definition of a preposition?

A preposition is defined as “a word that connects a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun to another word, esp. to a verb, another noun, or an adjective”, according to the Cambridge Dictionary. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary says that a preposition is “a word or group of words, such as in, from, to, out of and on behalf of, used before a noun or pronoun to show place, position, time or method.” The Collins Dictionary defines a preposition as “a word such as ‘by’, ‘for’, ‘into’, or ‘with’ which usually has a noun group as its object.” The Merriam Webster Dictionary provides a slightly different definition. According to it, a preposition is defined as “a function word that typically combines with a noun phrase to form a phrase which usually expresses a modification or predication.”

What are the different types of prepositions?

Prepositions can be divided into different types by categorising them according to their functions. The different types of prepositions are:

  • Prepositions of Place
  • Prepositions of Time
  • Prepositions of Direction
  • Prepositions of Location
  • Prepositions of Spatial Relationships
  • Prepositional Phrase

Give some examples of prepositions.

In, on, at, through, across, above, over, up, down, to, with, by, beside, beneath, in front of, between, among, etc. are some examples of prepositions.

How can we use prepositions in sentences?

Given below are some examples of how prepositions can be used in sentences.

  • The supermarket will be closed from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Can you come after some time?
  • Will you be with Raimy or Mazeeka?
  • I love sitting beside the beach at night.
  • Rachel met Phoebe by the lake.

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