English prepositions can be difficult to use correctly. First of all, there are lots of them (see this page for the 45 most common ones and their meanings), but also, we have lots of collocations with prepositions.
We also have some informal phrases with prepositions that you’ll hear a lot in spoken English. Read on for ten of them here.
Phrases With “At”
To be at it = to be doing something
There are a couple of ways we use “to be at it”. We can use it to mean “while you’re doing something” or also to show disapproval of what someone is doing. Here are some examples:
“I’m going out to get some lunch.”
“While you’re at it, could you get me a sandwich please?”
“Oh no, Jeremy’s at it again.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s over there chatting to the intern.”
“Oh yeah, I can see. He’s always trying to impress younger people…”
Phrases With “In”
To be in on = to know about something which is hidden, or a secret
When you’re “in”, you’re involved with something. Here’s an example of “in on”:
“Harry was in on the plan to steal the car.”
To be in with = to be part of a group of people
“Can you talk to Dave for me, please? I know you’re in with him and the management team.”
“His mother’s worried, because her son got in with a bad crowd at school.”
To be in for (it) = to expect to receive punishment
“I didn’t get the presentation done on time. I’ll be in for it now!”
Phrases With “Off”
To be a bit off = behave in an unfriendly way
“I think I’ve upset Sue. She’s been a bit off with me all week.”
To be (way) off = be incorrect about something
“I need to do the accounts again. These figures are way off to me.”
To be / go off = to become rotten
“This milk’s off. I’m going to throw it away.”
Phrases With “On”
To be on = to accept someone’s challenge
We say this when someone invites us to do a challenge or a dare. For example:
“Why don’t you sign up to the 5K fun run? It’s all for a good cause and you get to meet some great people.”
“OK! You’re on!”
To be on about = to talk about something
We often use this expression when we think someone is wrong about something. For example:
“Jack’s leaving his job.”
“What are you on about? He loves his job and he’s just got a new promotion!”
To be off = what you can say when you leave someone
“Right, I’m off now. I’ll see you later.”
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