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A preposition expresses the relationship of a noun or pronoun to another word (at, in, on, from).

Prepositions are very common words. Seven of them are in the top 20 words in English. Prepositions link a word to another part of the sentence and tell us what the relationship is, for example in space or time.

What is a Preposition?

Preposition (noun): a part-of-speech usually coming BEFORE a noun phrase and connecting it to another part of the sentence

A preposition is one of the nine parts of speech.

The name preposition (pre + position) means "place BEFORE". A preposition typically comes BEFORE another word—usually a noun phrase. It tells us about the relationship between the noun phrase and another part of the sentence. Some very common prepositions are: in, of, on, for, with, at, by

Look at these example sentences:

  • The book is on the round table. (relationship in space)
  • We will meet in November. (relationship in time)
  • I sent the information by email. (relationship of method)

Several other relationships are expressed by prepositions. In addition, more metaphorical ideas can be expressed such as: in love, beyond doubt, under investigation

If a preposition does not come BEFORE another word, it is still closely linked to another word:

  • Who did you talk to?
  • To whom did you talk?
  • I talked to Jane.



Prepositions have no particular form. The majority of prepositions are single words, but some are two- or three-word phrases:

  • one-word prepositions (before, into, on)
  • complex prepositions (according to, but for, in spite of)

When we say that a preposition comes before a noun phrase, we include:

  • noun phrase (the tall man)
  • noun (rice)
  • pronoun (them)
  • gerund (verb in -ing form: fishing)


Preposition List

There are about 150 prepositions in English. Yet this is a very small number when you think of the thousands of other words (nouns, verbs etc). Prepositions are important words. We use individual prepositions more frequently than other individual words. In fact, the prepositions of, to and in are among the ten most frequent words in English. Here is a short list of 70 of the more common one-word prepositions. Many of these prepositions have more than one meaning. Please refer to a dictionary for precise meaning and usage. You can also see the long preposition list (with examples) in our vocabulary section.

  • aboard
  • about
  • above
  • across
  • after
  • against
  • along
  • amid
  • among
  • anti
  • around
  • as
  • at
  • before
  • behind
  • below
  • beneath
  • beside
  • besides
  • between
  • beyond
  • but
  • by
  • concerning
  • considering
  • despite
  • down
  • during
  • except
  • excepting
  • excluding
  • following
  • for
  • from
  • in
  • inside
  • into
  • like
  • minus
  • near
  • of
  • off
  • on
  • onto
  • opposite
  • outside
  • over
  • past
  • per
  • plus
  • regarding
  • round
  • save
  • since
  • than
  • through
  • to
  • toward
  • towards
  • under
  • underneath
  • unlike
  • until
  • up
  • upon
  • versus
  • via
  • with
  • within
  • without


A Simple Rule for Preposition

There is one very simple rule about prepositions. And, unlike most rules, this rule has no exceptions.

Rule: A preposition is followed by a "noun". It is never followed by a verb.

By "noun" we include:

  • noun (dog, money, love)
  • proper noun (name) (Bangkok, Mary)
  • pronoun (you, him, us)
  • noun group (my first job)
  • gerund (swimming)

A preposition cannot be followed by a verb. If we want to follow a preposition by a verb, we must use the "-ing" form which is really a gerund or verb in noun form.

Here are some examples:


subject + verb




The food is


the table.


She lives



proper noun

Tara is looking




The letter is


your blue book.

noun group

Pascal is used


English people.

She isn't used




I ate




Preposition Rules

Prepositions form a small but very important word class. We use prepositions very frequently used. In fact, the prepositions to, of, in, for, on, with, at, by, from are all in the top 25 words in English. If you can understand and correctly use prepositions, it will greatly improve your fluency. And remember, there are not very many prepositions. There are only 150 prepositions and we only use about 70 of these commonly. The following rules will help you understand and use prepositions correctly.


1. A preposition must have an object

All prepositions have objects. If a "preposition" does not have an object it is not a preposition—it's probably an adverb. A preposition always has an object. An adverb never has an object. Look at these example sentences:

  • They are in the kitchen. (preposition in has object the kitchen)
    Please come in. (adverb in has no object; it qualifies come)
  • There was a doorway before me. (preposition before has object me)
    I had never seen it before. (adverb before has no object; it qualifies seen)
  • I will call after work. (preposition after has object work)
    He called soon after. (adverb after has no object; it qualifies called)


2. pre-position means place before

The name “preposition” indicates that a preposition (usually) comes before something (its object):

  • I put it in the box.

But even when a preposition does not come before its object, it is still closely related to its object:

  • Who did you talk to? / I talked to Jane.


3. A pronoun following a preposition should be in object form

The noun or pronoun that follows a preposition forms a ‘prepositional object’.  If it is a pronoun, it should therefore be in the objective form (me, her, them), not subjective form (I, she, they):

  • This is from my wife and me.
  • That’s between him and her.
  • Mary gave it to them.


4. Preposition forms

Prepositions have no particular form. The majority of prepositions are one-word prepositions, but some are two- or three-word phrases known as complex-prepositions:

  • one-word prepositions (before, into, on)
  • complex prepositions (according to, but for, in spite of, on account of)


5. to preposition and to infinitive are not the same

Do not confuse the infinitive particle “to” (to sing, to live) with the preposition “to” (to London, to me).

to as preposition

  • I look forward to lunch
    I look forward to seeing you
    I look forward to see you
  • They are committed to the project.
    They are committed to keeping the price down.
    They are committed to keep the price down.
  • I am used to cars.
    I am used to driving.
    I am used to drive.

to as infinitive particle

  • They used to live in Moscow.
  • They love to sing.


6. The golden preposition rule

A preposition is followed by a "noun". It is NEVER followed by a verb.


Prepositions of Place

Prepositions of place describe the position of a person or thing in relation to another person or thing.

Look at this picture:




Now look at these example sentences based on the prepositions in the picture:

There is a cup on the table.
The helicopter hovered above the house.
The police placed a sheet over the body.
He stood in front of the door and rang the bell.
Ram sat beside Tara.
A small stream runs below that bridge.
He put the key under the doormat.
He put his hands behind his back.


Prepositions of Time


We use:

  • at for a PRECISE TIME
  • on for DAYS and DATES





at 3 o'clock

in May

on Sunday

at 10.30am

in summer

on Tuesdays

at noon

in the summer

on 6 March

at dinnertime

in 1990

on 25 Dec. 2010

at bedtime

in the 1990s

on Christmas Day

at sunrise

in the next century

on Independence Day

at sunset

in the Ice Age

on my birthday

at the moment

in the past/future

on New Year's Eve


Look at these examples:

  • I have a meeting at 9am.
  • The shop closes at midnight.
  • Jane went home at lunchtime.
  • In England, it often snows in December.
  • Do you think we will go to Jupiter in the future?
  • There should be a lot of progress in the next century.
  • Do you work on Mondays?
  • Her birthday is on 20 November.
  • Where will you be on New Year's Day?


Notice the use of the preposition of time at in the following standard expressions:




at night

The stars shine at night.

at the weekend*

I don't usually work at the weekend.

at Christmas*/Easter

I stay with my family at Christmas.

at the same time

We finished the test at the same time.

at present

He's not home at present. Try later.


*Note that in some varieties of English people say "on the weekend" and "on Christmas".

Notice the use of the prepositions of time in and on in these common expressions:



in the morning

on Tuesday morning

in the mornings

on Saturday mornings

in the afternoon(s)

on Sunday afternoon(s)

in the evening(s)

on Monday evening(s)

When we say last, next, every, this we do not also use at, in, on.

  • I went to London last June. (not in last June)
  • He's coming back next Tuesday. (not on next Tuesday)
  • I go home every Easter. (not at every Easter)
  • We'll call you this evening. (not in this evening)

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