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Prepositions Establish Relationships in Place and Time – When, Where and How

PrepositionsAn overview of prepositions

A preposition is a word governing, usually preceding, a noun or pronoun expressing a relationship to another word or phrase in the clause. There are 150 prepositions in English, about 25-50 are necessary for basic comprehension. There will never be more than 150 prepositions, unlike nouns or verbs, that increase in number as the English language evolves. There are five types of prepositions: simple, double, compound, participle and phrase

Prepositions establish:

  • When – Relationships in time.  Common ‘when’ prepositions include: before, after, at.
  • Where – Relationships in space. Common ‘where’ prepositions include: in, under.
  • How – Relationships in space or time. Common ‘how’ prepositions include:  For example: for, of.
  • Neither time nor space – They encode other relationships.

Prepositions of time (when)

Some prepositions of time include:

  • After, for example: ‘The town was empty after the gold rush.’
  • At, for example: ‘I will meet at 10 am for tea.’
  • Before, for example: ‘Release the pin  before  throwing the grenade.’
  • By, for example: ‘I expect the report in by noon tomorrow.’
  • For, for example: ‘The eclipse will last for ten minutes.’

Prepositions of space (where)

Some prepositions of space include:

  • At – a point in space or a direction, for example: “We stand at the threshold of the great beyond.’
  • By – near, for example: “The coffee shop by the gas station sells the best coffee.’
  • From – coming from somewhere else to here, for example: “I came from the coffee shop to the gas station.’
  • In – an enclosed area, for example: “The donut is in the box.’
  • Off – away from, for example: “He jumped off the train.’
  • On – a surface, for example: “The man is standing on my toe.’
  • Out – away from an enclosed area, for example: “I made my way out of the train.”
  • To – direction, for example: “I am going to the market.”

Prepositions of neither space nor time (other relationships)

  • About – about a subject, for example: “Tell me about yourself.”
  • By – agency, for example: “The book was written by Frank Sinatra.”
  • For – use or purpose, for example: “The pill is for preventing heart attacks.”
  • Of – belonging to a place: “Prince William of England.”
  • With – together, or a part of: “The man pranced on stage with  feathers in his hair.”

Compound prepositions (more than one syllable)

  • Between – can have a literal meaning and a metaphorical meaning.  An example of a literal meaning of ‘between’ is: “The cat jumped between the dog and the mouse.”  An example of metaphorical meaning of ‘between’ is:  “I can’t decide between pink or blue nail polish.”
  • Among – considers collectively.  Amoung can have a literal or metaphorical meaning.  an example of literal meanings is:  “I danced among the tulips.”  An example of a metaphorical mean is: “Among the reports submitted, this one is best.”
  • Around – can have a metaphorical or literal meaning. for example: “The cat ran around the tree”.  Metaphorical meaning is: “The politician talked around the issues”.
  • Against – opposition.  A literal meaning is: “The cat leaning against the pole.”  A metaphorical meaning: “Citizens against climate change.”
  • Within – in a literal sense means the same as ‘in’. “The donut is within the box.”  A metaphorical example is: “It is within the realm of possibility.”
  • Without – not with.  An example is: “We will go to the movies without Jim.”
  • Inside -the same as in
  • Beyond – far away.  An example is “The apple tree is beyond the pig farm.” A metaphorical example: “He has gone beyond expectations.”

Prepositional phrase – anything that follows a preposition

A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition. A prepositional phrase can be used as a noun, adverb or adjective. For example: “He lifted the rock with the strength of ten men.”  The prepositional phrase “with the strength of ten men” begins with the preposition ‘with’. Prepositional phrases can be used as nouns, adverbs or adjectives.  In the example, the prepositional phrase “with the strength of a giant” acts as an adverb and modifies the verb ‘lifted’.

Ending a sentence with a preposition

For example, “It is a crazy world we live in”.  The preposition “in” appears at the end of the sentence.

 

Test your knowledge of prepositions

 

Understanding and Using English Grammar by Betty Azar understandingEnglishGrammar
Grammarly. Correct your grammar as you type. Grammarly logo
English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy English Grammar in Use
The Blue book of Grammar and punctuation – An easy to use guide with clear rules, real-world examples, and reproducible quizzes. thebluebookofgrammar

 

Aaron Skudder

7 Comments

  1. Prepositions make the English language unique and yet it would be almost to communicate in English without them. I teach English online and we spend a great deal of time teaching and discussing prepositions and prepositional phrases. I took your quiz, I missed tow. I missed one on a careless mistake. This post is very educational and helpful to someone learning English.

  2. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. i would really like to share this article with my friends. sometimes we argue about the validity of a statement in english language and even the use of conjuctions and prepositions. thank you for this great post.

  3. Aaron, you’re website is a great teaching resource for those who would like to learn english.  This article on Prepositions really does justice to the topic and it is well put together.

    It reminds me of being in a classroom.  Complete with multiple choice questions at the end of the lesson.

    Thank you for this in depth explanation of how a preposition establishes relationships in place and time.

  4. Thank you for writing a beautiful article. Prepositions Establish Relationships in Place and Time – When, Where and How Article Will Benefit Many. A word in your article usually beautifully illustrates the relation of a phrase other word or sentence with a previous noun or pronoun..You have beautifully explained with all excellent examples.I read the article from first to last and liked it very much.

  5. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. Prepositions make the English language unique and yet it would be almost to communicate in English without them. This post is very educational and helpful to someone learning English. Thanks for your awesome guide

  6. Thank you so much for the very educational post. I learned a lot while reading it. English is my second language so it s always good to educate myself for proper use of prepositions. It was a good reminder lesson for me. I have bookmarked your website for future English language lesson. I loved the google form to test your knowledge at the end of the post. I tested myself by taking a quiz and applied what I learned by reading your post. Thank you so much. Appreciate your effort !!! Keep up the good work.

    Pranali @empericalmama

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