Prepositions are words in English used to express the relationship of the prepositional word to other words in a sentence. Like, nouns, pronouns, verbs and adjectives prepositions are an important part of English speaking and writing, especially in sentence structure. The proper use of prepositions is critical for any writer, whether they are looking to produce work in an academic setting, whether they are trying to write clearly in a place of business, or they are trying to boost their creative writing skills.
If you need a primer on how to use prepositions, or any other types of words in the English language, then you should strongly consider making use of a grammar course. Check out Udemy’s introductory English grammar course for more on prepositions and other aspects of grammar and language for more information on using these words properly in whatever you are writing. You can learn everything you need to know about prepositions and boost other important grammar skills by practicing grammar on a daily basis.
What is a Preposition?
A preposition is a word in a sentence that normally precedes a noun or a pronoun and that’s used to illustrate the noun’s 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’s not the case that it must always do so.
Prepositions and prepositional phrases are fairly flexible and important devices in English grammar. For most native English speakers and writers, grammatical errors involving prepositions actually aren’t very common. Prepositions frequently sound fine or read correctly no matter where they’re used in a sentence, in fact. Some writers, in attempting to sound grammatically correct, invariably trip themselves up when using propositions, and it’s typically because they’ve fallen into believing a few myths about sentence structure in English grammar.
For example, the old saying that you should never end a sentence with a preposition is really just a myth that originated with the dramatist John Dryden in 1672. Dryden was irritated by a piece written by Ben Jonson and criticized the writer for placing a preposition at the end of a clause rather than placing it where it was normally found in that era: preceding a noun or pronoun.
Dryden was very popular in his time and soon enough his admonition about ending a sentence with a preposition took root and has remained firmly ensconced in the minds of many grammarians ever since.
List of Prepositions
There are many different words that act as prepositions in the English language; here’s a list.
- Above, about, across, against, along, among, around, at
- Before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by
- Down, during
- For, from
- In, inside, into
- Of, off, on
- To, toward, through
- Under, until, up, upon
- With, within
Examining Prepositions in Sentence Structure
Given the list of prepositions above, it’s clear that many sentences can be ended 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 something else the writer has possibly already written about. The preposition in this case serves to focus attention on the source of her (the adjectival word “she’s”) anger, and that’s at US.
It’s perfectly fine in some sentences to strand a preposition at the end. Here are a couple examples of prepositions stranded 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 overly formal and from another time while 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.
Prepositions in the English language may seem intimidating to use properly at first glance, 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. Proper business English will also assist you in your career, and this Udemy course on Business English will make sure you always sound the part.
The Udemy advanced English grammar course can teach you many other techniques and devices for proper sentence structure, so don’t hesitate to give it a try. If an advanced course is not what you’re searching for, remember that Udemy offers many basic and advanced English grammar courses. If you’ve finally decided to master use of the preposition in a sentence check out Udemy’s elements of English grammar course right away for another great option.