Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Preposition

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
English

A preposition shows how two parts of a sentence are connected in relation to time, place, or movement/direction . In other words, they tell us where or when something is in relation to something else in the sentence. Prepositions often come before a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun; but they may be used in a variety of other ways.

What are some examples of prepositions?

Examples of prepositions include 'at', 'on', and 'in'. These show time ('I arrive on Monday'), prepositions showing place ('I went into the town'), or prepositions showing movement / direction ('I traveled from New York to Washington).

The same word can be used as a preposition in multiple ways. For example, the word 'at' can be used as a preposition of time (eg. 'I'm meeting Mickey Mouse at the weekend'), or as a preposition of place (eg. 'I'm meeting him at Disneyland').

Positioning of prepositions

The word 'preposition' has two parts: 'pre' and 'position'. This is a useful reminder; the position of the preposition is usually before ('pre') a noun phrase or pronoun. For example:

'The cat is stuck in the tree'

In the sentence 'The cat is stuck in the tree ', the preposition 'in' comes before the noun 'tree'. Prepositions can sometimes come alongside adjectives, adverbs, and clauses too.

'She is talented at playing the piano'

Here, the preposition 'at' is joined the adjective 'talented'. If we didn't have the preposition then the sentence wouldn't make sense. (Thank you prepositions!).

Types of preposition

Prepositions can be split into three groups ; prepositions of time, prepositions of place, and prepositions of movement / direction. Each shows a relationship between one part of the phrase and the other.

What are prepositions of time?

Prepositions of time express a relationship of time. The table below shows the different ways in which prepositions of time can be used:

Preposition prepositions of time StudySmarterPrepositions of time (StudySmarter)

What are prepositions of place?

Prepositions of place express a relationship of location or space. They show how one person or thing is positioned in relation to another person or thing. Have a look at the table below which will provide you with some examples of common prepositions of place:

preposition prepositions of place StudySmarterPrepositions of place (StudySmarter)

What are prepositions of movement/direction?

Prepositions of movement / direction show movement from one place to another or the direction of movement. Whilst prepositions of place express the static position of something, prepositions of movement / direction show active movement. Here are some examples:

prepositions prepositions of movement / direction StudySmarterPrepositions of movement / direction (StudySmarter)

Other types of prepositions

Prepositions don't just belong to one category. They can also be grouped based on how they look. This includes single-word prepositions, two-word prepositions, and three-word prepositions.

Two-word and three-word prepositions are idioms (a group of words that have a meaning separate to that of the individual words). The words usually stick together as a group to form a certain meaning and can't usually change order. For example, the three-word preposition 'with regard to' cannot be changed to 'to regard with'. It is a fixed expression with a fixed meaning, much like a one-word preposition. Two-word and three-word prepositions can also be called 'complex prepositions' or 'multi-word prepositions', whilst once-word prepositions can also be called 'simple prepositions'.

Of course, there can be four-word or even five-word prepositions such as 'from the point of view of', however, the following are the most common.

What are single-word prepositions?

Single-word prepositions are, as the name suggests, prepositions that consist of only one word. These prepositions are more flexible in meaning and can be used in different parts of the sentence.

Examples of single-word prepositions include:

  • during

  • from

  • on

  • towards

  • with

  • up

  • near

  • at

  • to

  • above

What are two-word prepositions?

Two-word prepositions contain two words that come together to form a preposition.

For example:

  • ahead of

  • because of

  • instead of

  • near to

  • due to

  • rather than

  • according to

  • prior to

Some of these two-word prepositions need both words to make sense. Take the preposition 'instead of'. The sentence 'I want pizza instead chicken nuggets' does not make sense, the word 'of' is required ('I want pizza instead of chicken nuggets').

Two-word prepositions are often longer words followed by a simple preposition such as 'of', 'to', 'than' etc.

What are three-word prepositions?

The three-word combination works together to form a preposition with a specific meaning, separate to that of each individual word. For example, the words 'in', 'spite', and 'of' each have a different meaning, when they are all put together they form the preposition 'in spite of', which has its own meaning.

Examples of three-word prepositions include:

  • in front of

  • by means of

  • in spite of

  • in addition to

  • in exchange for

  • in case of

  • on top of

  • as well as

Three-word prepositions often follow the structure ' Preposition + Noun / Adjective + Preposition '. For example, the preposition 'in addition to' contains the prepositions 'in' and 'to', and the noun 'addition'.

What is a prepositional phrase?

A prepositional phrase is a group of words that is built around a preposition. Prepositional phrases contain a preposition, along with the object (a noun or pronoun), and any modifiers.

Take a look at these examples:

The cat hid under a red car

In this example, the prepositional phrase 'under the car' contains the preposition 'under' along with the noun phrase 'a red car'. The car is the object of the sentence that is receiving the verb 'hid'. The words 'a' and 'red' are modifiers that add extra information about the noun. This prepositional phrase gives information about the position of the cat.

I saw a man with a curly mustache.

Here, the prepositional phrase is 'with a curly mustache'. The preposition 'with' is followed by a noun phrase that contains the noun 'mustache' and the modifiers 'a' and 'curly'. This phrase functions in the same way as an adjective, it gives information about the noun ('man'). These kinds of prepositional phrases can therefore also be called 'adjective phrases'.

In the morning we went home.

In this clause, the prepositional phrase 'in the morning' is used to set the scene. It modifies (gives more information about) the verb phrase 'we went home' and can therefore also be called an 'adverbial phrase'.

Preposition - key takeaways

  • A preposition is often a small word showing how two parts of a sentence are connected in relation to time, place, or movement / direction.
  • Prepositions often come before a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun, however they may be used in a variety of ways.
  • Prepositions can be split into three groups: prepositions of time, prepositions of place, and prepositions of movement / direction.
  • Prepositions can also be grouped based on how they look; this includes single-word prepositions, two-word prepositions, and three-word prepositions.
  • A prepositional phrase is a group of words that is built around a preposition. They often contain a preposition, along with the object (a noun or pronoun), and any modifiers.

Preposition

A preposition is often a small word showing how two parts of a sentence are connected in relation to time, place, or movement / direction.

Examples of prepositions include 'at', 'on', and 'in'. These words can be prepositions showing time ('I arrive on Monday'), prepositions showing place ('I went into the town'), or prepositions showing movement / direction ('I traveled from New York to Washington).

Prepositions often come before a noun or a noun phrase. However, they may be used in a variety of ways. In the sentence 'The cat is stuck in the tree', the preposition 'in' comes before the noun 'tree'. In the sentence 'She is talented at playing the piano', the preposition 'at' comes alongside the adjective 'talented'.

Final Preposition Quiz

Question

‘A preposition is often a small word showing how two parts of a sentence are connected in relation to age or height’. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False! A preposition is often a small word showing how two parts of a sentence are connected in relation to time, place, or movement/direction.

Show question

Question

Examples of prepositions include which of the following words?:

  • In

  • Ugly

  • And

  • Tree

  • At

  • On

Show answer

Answer

The prepositions are ‘in’, ‘at’, and ‘on’.

Show question

Question

Prepositions usually come before a ____ or a ______. Fill in the blanks.


Show answer

Answer

Prepositions usually come before a noun phrase/noun or a pronoun.

Show question

Question

What are the three main types of prepositions? (That show the relationship between two phrases).


Show answer

Answer

Prepositions of time, prepositions of place, and prepositions of direction/movement.

Show question

Question

The same word (e.g. ‘at) can be used as a preposition of time, place, AND direction/ movement. True or false?


Show answer

Answer

True! The same word can be used as a preposition in multiple ways. For example, the word ‘at’ can be used as a preposition of time (e.g. ‘I’m meeting Mickey at the weekend’), or as a preposition of place (e.g. ‘I’m meeting him at Disneyland’).  

Show question

Question

Which of the following sentences contain a preposition of time?

  1. ‘I haven’t had a shower since last year’

  2. ‘Get your shoes off my bed’

  3. ‘It’s my birthday on Saturday’

  4. ‘She climbed out of the window’

Show answer

Answer

Sentences A and C contain prepositions of time. Sentence A contains the preposition ‘since’ and sentence C contains the preposition ‘on’. These give information about time.

Show question

Question

What are prepositions of place?


Show answer

Answer

Prepositions of place express a relationship of location or space. They show how one person or thing is positioned in relation to another person or thing.

Show question

Question

Which of the following sentences contain a preposition of place?

  1. ‘I saw him yesterday’

  2. ‘She will be in front of the entrance’

  3. ‘It’s my birthday on Saturday’

  4. ‘The dog is on the buffet!’

Show answer

Answer

Sentences B and D contain prepositions of place. Sentence B contains the preposition ‘in front of’ and sentence D contains the preposition ‘on’. These show the position of the noun.

Show question

Question

Which of the following sentences contain a preposition of direction/movement?

  1. ‘It’s Christmas in December’

  2. ‘It’s a lovely day’ 

  3. ‘I hid behind my sister’

  4. ‘Don’t reach across the table!’

Show answer

Answer

Sentences C and D contain prepositions of direction/movement. Sentence C contains the preposition ‘behind’ and sentence D contains the preposition ‘across’. These show a form of movement from one place to another or the direction of this movement.

Show question

Question

How else can prepositions be categorised?


Show answer

Answer

Prepositions can also be grouped based on how they look; this includes single-word prepositions, two-word prepositions, and three-word prepositions.

Show question

Question

What are single-word prepositions?


Show answer

Answer

Single-word prepositions are prepositions that consist of only one word. These prepositions are more flexible in meaning and can be used in different parts of the sentence.

Show question

Question

Which of the following are two-word prepositions? 

  • In exchange for

  • Instead of

  • Near to

  • Near

  • In case of

  • Prior to

Show answer

Answer

The two-word prepositions are ‘instead of’, ‘near to’, and ‘prior to’ as these all contain two words.

Show question

Question

Three-word prepositions  often follow the structure _____ + _________ + _________. Fill in the blanks.


Show answer

Answer

Three-word prepositions often follow the structure ‘Preposition + Noun/Adjective + Preposition’. For example, the preposition ‘in addition to’ contains the prepositions ‘in’ and ‘to’, and the noun ‘addition’.

Show question

Question

What is a prepositional phrase?


Show answer

Answer

A prepositional phrase is a group of words that is built around a preposition e.g. in the sentence ‘on the table’, the preposition ‘on’ is the main information.

Show question

Question

Prepositional phrases often contain a ________, along with the ______ (a noun or pronoun), and any _______. 


Show answer

Answer

Prepositional phrases often contain a preposition, along with the object (a noun or pronoun), and any modifiers.

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Preposition quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.