Prepositions are an important part of English grammar because they show the relationship between words in a sentence. For example, they can show a relationship of time ("I will leave at 6pm"); or location ("He's sitting in my chair"); or of movement ""I'm going to the station") or manner ("We're going by bus").
We can use prepositions before nouns or pronouns ("before the weekend", "under the table", etc) or after adjectives and verbs ("good at English", "interested in science", "concentrate on a book", "wait for a friend").
Why prepositions are difficult
English prepositions are difficult to learn and use for three main reasons:
1. There are often only slight differences in meaning.
For example, "The chair is in the corner of the room" (i.e. placed inside the room); "His house is on the corner" (i.e. built on the intersection of two roads); "He was standing at the corner" (i.e. maybe not precisely on the intersection, but close to it).
2. They are difficult to hear.
Because prepositions are grammatical words, we don't usually stress them when we speak. For this reason, they're difficult to hear and to learn.
3. They aren't easy to translate
In English we say "depend on", while in your language you might say "depend of", for example. Make sure that you learn the correct preposition!
More help with prepositions
Check out these pages for more examples of English prepositions:
Here is a list of the 45 most common English prepositions, with their main uses and examples.
about (connection, cause, direction)
talk about something, worried about, walk about / around
above (place – higher than)
fly above the clouds
go across the street, walk across a field
after (time, sequence)
after work, after an hour, after that
against (contrast, location)
against the law, advise someone against something
stand against the wall
along (movement, location)
drive along a road, books along the top shelf
among (location, belonging)
among people, among friends
around / round (location, direction)
sit around the table, around the city, around the corner, look around
at (time, place or event, direction)
at night, at the weekend, at 6pm, at first, at once, at Christmas
at school, at work, at an address, at a meeting
look at, shout at
before (time, location, direction
before the holiday, before long, before me (in a queue), before you get to…
behind (location, cause, time)
behind the school, behind the plan, behind schedule, stay behind
below (place – lower than)
below the castle, below average
beside the sofa
between (location, time, amount, connection)
between the door and the window, between now and next year, between meals, between 10 and 20, comparison between two things
by (agent, movement, location, time, ownership, amount)
given something by a person, by car, by a lake, by next week, a play by Shakespeare, prices rise by a quarter
despite / in spite of (contrast)
go out despite the rain
down (direction, movement, amount)
go down the stairs, sit down, turn down the volume
during the holidays, during the lesson
everyone except me, except in emergencies
for (intention / purpose, time, distance, direction)
this is for you, do something for a reason / a person, for breakfast,
wait for, for a year, for 5 km, train for London
from (origin, distance, time, cause, contrast)
from London, a present from my sister, made from glass, an hour from here, from 6 pm, tired from his run, different from
in (location, time, inclusion, manner)
in a room, in December, in summer, in 2015, in a minute, in time (for), in the book, play in a team, take part in, speak in English, in danger, in a suit
inside the house
into (direction, change, movement)
walk into a room, turn into, translate into, crash into
like (opp: unlike) (similarity, example)
like me, be like, look like, sugary food like cakes, it's not like him to be…
near (location, time)
near his house, near the end
of (belonging/group, amount, specific part, feelings)
back of the cupboard, a friend of mine, cup of coffee, at the age of 20, scared of
off (movement, absence, location)
get off the bus, turn off the PC, keep off, day off work, off the main road
on (location, time, movement)
on a chair, on page 10, on the High Street, on your right, on Monday, on my birthday, get on the train, turn on the TV
jump onto something, lead onto something
sit opposite someone
outside (location, exclusion)
go outside, outside the group
over (location, cover, direction, finish, quantity)
fly over, wear a coat over your clothes, cross over the road, get over something, be over 40
past (time, direction)
half-past six, go past the station
through (movement, time, process, connection)
walk through the door, work through the night, read through, get a job through a friend
problems throughout the company, throughout the summer
to (movement, intention, direction, attach, relationships)
walk to the door, go to school, say hello to, to the north of the city, add a heading to the page, married to
towards (direction, feeling)
walk towards, a good attitude towards her studies
under (location, amount, process)
under the table, filed under, under 5 years old, under discussion, under review, under pressure
underneath a pile of books
until / till (time)
until the end of the year
up (movement, amount)
walk up the stairs, stand up, go up in price
with (connection, means, feeling)
spend time with, someone with a lot of friends, a problem with something, buy something with your money, cry with happiness, in love with
be without food
Thank u so much.
Paul Cyr Hounkpe
Thank you for your weekly help. I do appreciate it and i invite colleagues to use it.
Why not an interrogative mark at the end of "Why prepositions are difficult"?
Thank you again. This will help us to improve our level.
Good question! In the heading "Why prepositions are difficult" the "why" means "the reason why" - it doesn't mean "why" as in "Why are you happy?", for example. If the heading was a question the word order would change to "Why are prepositions difficult?"
Thank you :D
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