English Grammar Series: Mastering English Prepositions

Explore different types of English prepositions with practical examples. Understand the user and role of prepositions of direction, time, place, and manner.

Sherzod Gafar
June 21, 2023
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English Grammar Series: Mastering English Prepositions

This post will cover an essential aspect of English grammar that puzzles even the most experienced English learners- prepositions. From indicating direction, location, time, or introducing a subject matter, prepositions are small but mighty words with a significant role in English grammar.

What is a Preposition?

At the most fundamental level, a preposition is a word that shows the relationship of a noun or a pronoun to another word in the sentence. These relationships often involve direction, place, time, or manner. For instance, consider the sentence, "The book is on the table." Here, 'on' is a preposition that shows the relationship between 'book' and 'table.'

Different Categories of Prepositions

Prepositions can be classified into time, place, direction, and manner.

Time Prepositions

Time prepositions refer to time in the past, present, or future. The most common ones are 'at,' 'on,' and 'in.' 

- 'At' is used for precise times. Example: I will meet you at 5 pm.

- 'On' is used for specific days and dates. Example: My birthday is on Monday.

- 'In' is used for non-specific times, months, years, and seasons. Example: I was born in 1990.

Place Prepositions

Place prepositions show the position or location of something. 'At,' 'on,' and 'in' are again the major players here.

- 'At' is used for specific addresses. Example: She is waiting at 45 Oxford Street.

- 'On' is used to denote a position on a surface. Example: The cat is sleeping on the table.

- 'In' is used to indicate enclosed or closed-off spaces. Example: The keys are in the drawer.

Direction Prepositions

Direction prepositions indicate movement from one place to another. Some examples are 'to,' 'into,' 'towards,' and 'through.'

- 'To' is used to show movement to reach a destination. Example: He is going to London.

- 'Into' suggests movement that results in being enclosed. Example: She walked into the room.

- 'Towards' shows the direction to a particular point. Example: She is walking towards the market.

Prepositions of Manner and Device

Prepositions of manner and device indicate the way something happens or the means through which it occurs. Examples include 'by,' 'on,' and 'with.'

- 'By' is often used to indicate a method. Example: We traveled by car.

- 'On' can refer to devices. Example: I am speaking on the phone.

- 'With' can indicate a tool used. Example: I cut the paper with scissors.

More Complex Prepositions 

Some prepositions are more complex, consisting of more than one word. For instance, prepositions like 'according to,' 'because of,' 'in spite of' etc. While these might seem more intimidating, they function just like single-word prepositions.

- 'According to' expresses agreement or conformity with something. Example: According to the weather forecast, it will rain tomorrow.

- 'Because of' shows causation or reason. Example: The match was canceled because of the rain.

- 'In spite of' is used to show contrast or contradiction. Example: In spite of the difficulties, they completed the project on time.

Common Mistakes with Prepositions 

There are several common mistakes learners make when dealing with prepositions. Here are a few:

1. Unnecessary prepositions: Sometimes, learners use prepositions where they are not needed. Example: Incorrect: 'Where is he at?' Correct: 'Where is he?'

2. Wrong prepositions: Using the wrong preposition is a common mistake. For example, 'depend on' is correct, not 'depend in.' 

Example 1:

Incorrect: My plans for the weekend depend in the weather.

Correct: My plans for the weekend depend on the weather.

Example 2:

Incorrect: We will travel on car.

Correct: We will travel by car.

More Tips to Master Prepositions

- Memorize common combinations: Some verbs, adjectives, and nouns frequently combine with specific prepositions. Memorizing these can be very helpful. Example: 'depend on, ''tired of,' 'reason for.' You can use spaced repetition apps like Heylama's flashcards feature to memorize such combinations effectively without much effort.

- Listen to native speakers: Speaking with native English speakers or listening to native English speakers (podcasts, YouTube videos. etc.) can give you practical exposure to the use of prepositions in real-life contexts.

- Online resources: Utilize online quizzes, flashcards, and exercises to practice prepositions.

Finally, it is essential to remember that prepositions can be very flexible in English. Certain English prepositions may be used differently in different regions, dialects, or styles of English. It's always a good idea to be receptive to these variations and learn from them.

Unraveling the complexities of prepositions is a massive stride in mastering English grammar. Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, every element of grammar, however small, contributes to the beauty and functionality of the English language. In our English Grammar Series, we continue to explore these pieces, one blog post at a time. Keep practicing, stay curious, and happy learning!


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