How To Use The Prepositions In English

A preposition is a part of the English language that shows the relationships between people, places, and things. There are over 100 different prepositions in English. Some common prepositions include words at, on, in, above, and below. Also, Most English speaking people recall only a handful of common prepositions, but in reality, there are about 150 different prepositions. Three of these prepositions are in the top ten most commonly used words in the English language: of, to, and in.

Let´s learn how to use the prepositions in English

What is a preposition?

Prepositions are words that show direction, location, time, and the spatial relationship between objects. Prepositions are followed by an object in a sentence, which can be a noun or a pronoun. Although there may be other words between them, a prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or pronoun, acting as the object.

Rules Of Prepositions

Preposition Rules – 1 – Preposition must have an object – a preposition is not a preposition unless it goes with a related noun or a pronoun that is the object of the preposition. A preposition is always with an object  – without an object, it is an adverb that never has an object.

  • She is in the garage. (preposition ‘in’ has object the garage)
  • You may come in. (adverb ‘in’ has no object; it qualifies come)
  • There was a bycicle before me. (preposition ‘before’ has object ‘me’)
  • Ray has never seen it before. (adverb ‘before’ has no object; it qualifies seen)

Preposition Rules – 2- Must be placed before – As the name says ‘Pre-Position’ – it comes before something. Generally, but not always, a preposition goes before a noun or a pronoun. Understand with examples –


Types of prepositions

Because there are so many prepositions, differentiating them helps to understand when and how to use them properly. The word directly following a preposition is called its complement, and how it relates to the preposition determines what type of preposition you are using.

Transitive Prepositions

A transitive preposition always uses a complement with a preposition. For example, the word “amongst” is a transitive preposition. You cannot write “she lived amongst the wildflowers” without the complement “the wildflowers.” Some traditional grammars believe transitive prepositions are the only true prepositions.

Intransitive Prepositions

Intransitive prepositions do not need to use the complement to complete the thought. For example, “outside” can be used in the following sentence without a complement, “she lived outside.” You could add a complement to this, “She lived outside the city limits,” but it is unnecessary when using it. Traditional grammars believe intransitive prepositions are actually adverbs. The argument for intransitive prepositions parallels the use of transitive or intransitive verbs. “He runs” versus “he runs a marathon.”

Conjunctive Preposition

This type of preposition uses a clause as the complement. Traditional grammar may categorize these are subordinating conjunctions instead of conjunctive prepositions. One common example of a conjunctive preposition is the word “because.”

Complex Preposition

When two or more words form a preposition, they are a complex preposition. This type of preposition is also referred to as a compound preposition. Aside from being more than one word, it functions essentially the same as any other preposition. “In light of” is an example of a complex preposition. “In light of the recent traffic reports, the man drove a different way to work.” Other examples are in addition to, on behalf of, in the middle of, or across from.

Complex prepositions are mostly found at the beginning and the middle of a sentence, but rarely at the end. To find the correct complex preposition to use, focus on the relationship between the beginning and the end of the sentence. When you have determined this relationship, you can identify the proper complex preposition much easier.

Phrase propositions

Sometimes called prepositional phrases, phrase prepositions contain the preposition, the object, and the optional object’s modifier (extra details about the object such as “smooth” to describe a table). Some examples of these are “at home, with a little help, according to their wishes.”


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