One of the best ways to improve your English and become more confident when speaking it is to make sure you understand how to use prepositions correctly. Prepositions are words in English that allow a noun or pronoun to modify another word in the sentence.

Prepositions are introduced in beginner-level English courses. Some of the first prepositions new English speakers learn are on, in, at, around, with, and several others. As students advance, they learn and practice using more complex prepositions in all four English skill areas: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Continue reading this blog to access a complete list of more than 100 prepositions and learn how to use them correctly. Keep in mind: The proper use of prepositions is critical for anyone hoping to master English, especially if you plan to produce work in academic or professional settings.

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Whether you are just starting on your English language learning journey or you’re at the intermediate or advanced level, it’s wise to devote some time to practicing prepositions to best ensure you’re using them correctly. Mastering prepositions is a significant part of learning how to speak English fluently. Students at all levels should be aware of common grammar mistakes, especially those related to prepositions.

English grammar courses teach you everything you need to know about prepositions and boost other important grammar skills. You can learn about basic prepositions in a beginner-level course online with Udemy. 

What is a Preposition?

A preposition is a word in a sentence that generally precedes a noun or a pronoun. You would use it to illustrate the noun or pronoun’s relationship to yet another word in the sentence. The actual word “preposition” came from the idea of a word being “positioned before,” or preceding, another word. While a preposition typically precedes a noun or pronoun, it doesn’t always have to happen that way.

Prepositions and prepositional phrases are fairly flexible and important devices in English grammar. For most native English speakers and writers, grammatical errors involving prepositions aren’t very common. Prepositions frequently sound fine or read correctly no matter where they appear in a sentence. Some writers that try to sound grammatically correct often make mistakes when using prepositions. That’s because they have fallen into believing a few myths about sentence structure in English grammar.

Why are prepositions so important?

Using prepositions properly can also help improve your conversational English skills and ensure your listener understands you well. Consider how we use prepositions and why we should make sure we are using them correctly. Here are some ways we need to use prepositions:

Misusing prepositions can easily cause confusion; therefore, it is a good idea to make sure you are using prepositions correctly. If you are practicing your English with a conversation partner, ask them for feedback on how you are using prepositions in your discussions. It is also helpful to review the list below with a conversation partner and practice making sentences with prepositions.

Let’s Review: List of Prepositions

There are many different words that act as prepositions in the English language; here’s a full list in alphabetical order. Please note: While some words in this list are basic prepositions you’ll learn in a beginner-level English class, others are taught in intermediate-to-advanced level classes.

There are also dozens of two-word prepositions students should review and practice using:

You can categorize the above prepositions into three groups based on how you would use them in English. Let’s look at some examples:

Prepositions of time 

at, before, in, on, next, until

Example sentences: 

Please meet me at 5:00 p.m.

Can you meet me at the hotel next Friday?

I can wait for her until 9 p.m.

Prepositions of place

above, around, below, beside, behind, inside, outside, under

Example sentences:

The store is around the corner on First Street.

The book is behind her laptop.

The cat is under the table.

Prepositions of movement

across, around, away from, down from, into, over, towards, under, up

Example sentences:

We will jog around the park.

Let’s walk across the street.

Please move away from the door.

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are created when you combine a verb + preposition. Mastering phrasal verbs is a great way to improve your fluency.  Here’s a list of common phrasal verbs to practice:

Here are some sample sentences using phrasal verbs:

There are thousands of phrasal verbs; some are more commonly used than others. You probably noticed in the list above that many of them start with the same noun but end with a different preposition, such as:

To make sure you’re using the correct phrasal verb, take some time to study phrasal verbs and practice using them in class or with a native-English speaking conversation partner. Using them well is a great way to improve your fluency. 

If you’d like to learn more ways to use verbs, check out our blog on the most commonly-used tenses in English.

Examining Prepositions in Sentence Structure

Grammar, Magnifier, Magnifying Glass, Loupe, Book

Given the list of prepositions above, it’s clear that many sentences can end with a preposition and yet sound completely fine and also be grammatically correct. Take a moment to examine the below sentence and then the sentence broken down into a verb/preposition/noun structure.

“Mary walked along the road.”

Here’s the verb/preposition/noun breakdown of the same sentence:

“Mary walked (verb) along (preposition) the road (noun).”

The word “along” in the sentence above is a preposition that illustrates the relationship of the verb “walked” to the noun “road.” Mary is walking along a road. Mary isn’t walking on sunshine or on thin air.

Here’s an example of a preposition used in a sentence having an adjective/preposition/pronoun structure:

“She’s angry with us.”

Here’s the adjective/preposition/pronoun breakdown of the same sentence:

“She’s angry (adjective) with (preposition) us (pronoun).”

Again, one can see that the preposition in the sentence above, “with,” is a preposition illustrating a relationship between the adjective “angry” and the pronoun “us.” She, whoever she is, is angry WITH us. She’s not angry with something else that may have been implied in a prior sentence, and she’s not angry with the weather or anything else. The preposition, in this case, serves to focus attention on the source of her (the adjectival word “she’s”) anger, and that’s with us.

Stranded Prepositions

It’s perfectly fine in some sentences to strand a preposition at the end. Here are a couple of examples of prepositions placed at the end of sentences:

“Mary has much to be angry about.”

It would sound stilted and even pretentious if one were to write, “Mary has much about which to be angry.”

“She wondered where he had come from.”

It’s possible to write the above sentence as, “She wondered from where he had come,” but it sounds too formal. On the other hand, the original sentence is clear, concise, modern, and fully descriptive. Attempting to avoid stranding a preposition at the end of a sentence frequently creates overly formal and stilted sentences, such as those illustrated in the above examples.

Keep in mind, however, that in more formal writing such as academic or business writing, it would be best to avoid ending sentences with a stranded preposition. If you’re writing an informal message to a friend or ending a sentence with a phrasal verb, ending a sentence with a stranded preposition is acceptable.

Another way to use prepositions in business and academic writing

Lastly, let’s take a look at how we use prepositions to express cause and effect. It’s important to understand the finer points of using prepositions in professional writing both at work and school. When explaining cause and effect, pay close attention to the use and placement of prepositions. Here are a few examples:

Because of

As a result of

Is due to

Learn more cause and effect examples and how to bring your writing skills to a new level by mastering prepositions.

Prepositions in the English language may seem intimidating to use properly, perhaps because the word itself sounds technical or of an advanced grammatical nature. But prepositions add a great deal to most sentences containing nouns or pronouns. A simple trick for remembering prepositional usage is to learn just what nouns and pronouns are and to insert a preposition before them if it sounds right or reads correctly.

Practicing prepositions

It’s always a good idea to test out your knowledge after learning or reviewing a particular grammar point. Take the short quiz below to test your knowledge.

  1. She is waiting____the bus. It’s 10 minutes late.

a.     near

b.     for

c.     in

d.     with

The correct answer is b. for

  1. Jennifer’s parents called her____ the airport to let her know they arrived safely.

a.     To

b.     of

c.     from

d.     on

The correct answer is b. from

  1. Robert is sitting____the sofa reading a book. 

a.     under

b.     about

c.     on

d.     across

The correct answer is b. about.

  1. Maria wants to travel______ the world.

a.     On

b.     Around

c.     Among

d.     Beside

The correct answer is b. around.

  1. Her family will be going___ vacation next summer.

a.     By

b.     On

c.     Into

d.     From

The correct answer is b. On.

  1. It started to rain. They had to call____ the party.

a. On

b. By

c. Into

d. Off

The correct answer is d. off.

  1. We agree_____her. We should move to a new apartment.

a. Around

b. With

c. Near

d. To

The correct answer is b. with.

  1. Let’s drop____ and say hi before we leave.

a. To

b. On

c. In

d. With

The correct answer is c. in.

Although many students may find prepositions intimidating at first, there’s no reason to worry. Mastering prepositions takes time, patience, practice, and often the help of a course or two. Udemy offers plenty of opportunities to get started and bring your use of prepositions to a new level. 
Let’s move on to the fundamentals of grammar to learn more about prepositions or refresh your understanding of other important aspects of the English language. 

Page Last Updated: July 2021

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