Caleb S.
Caleb S.

An Introduction to Prepositions – With Types & Examples!

15 min read

Published on: Jun 4, 2024

Last updated on: Jun 19, 2024

Preposition

“I am the university”

"They live a city."

“The cat sleeps the bed."

Confused about what these sentences even mean? 

They all sound weird because they lack prepositions or words that express relationships between things. Any sentence without prepositions is going to sound weird and meaningless, just like the sentences above. 

Here is the correct version with prepositions:

  • I am at the university.
  • They live in a city.
  • The cat sleeps on the bed.

Now, these sentences make sense!

So, what are prepositions, and how do you use them? This blog introduces the definition and common types of prepositions with clear examples. You’ll also get some usage tips to help you understand them better. 

Let’s dive in!

What is a Preposition?

Prepositions are a part of speech that come before a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to express a relationship between that noun and other words in a sentence. These words tell where or when a subject is in relation to another thing. 

In other words, they indicate things like location, time, direction, manner, or possession of things relative to each other. Common preposition examples include words such as "in," "on," "at," "by," "under," "over," "between," "among," "through," "with," and "for."

Types of Prepositions with Examples

There are four main types of prepositions based on the quality they indicate about a subject:

  • Prepositions of time
  • Prepositions of direction
  • Prepositions of location
  • Prepositions of space

Let’s check out their definitions and examples below: 

Prepositions of Time

Prepositions of time indicate when something happens. They specify a particular time or period for when. 

In simple terms, these words clarify when events occur, for how long, or within what time frame, providing context related to time.

Here are some examples along with their usage:

Preposition

Used For

Example Sentences

At

A specific point in time

The party starts at 7 p.m.

In

Period of time

She will return in two weeks.

On

Specific days or dates

We have a meeting on Monday.

For

Duration of time

They stayed for three hours.

Since

Beginning of a period

She has been waiting since morning.

Until/Til

How long something lasts

The shop is open until 8pm

During

Period of time when something happens

He slept during the flight.

By

Deadline or latest time something should be completed

Please submit your assignment by Friday.

Prepositions of Direction

Prepositions of direction are words that show the direction of movement or the location of something about another object or place.

Here is a list of common prepositions of this type:

Preposition

Used For

Example Sentences

To

Movement toward a destination

He walked to the park.

From

Starting point of movement

She traveled from New York to Los Angeles.

Into

Movement toward the inside or interior

He jumped into the pool.

Onto

Movement onto a surface or area

The cat jumped onto the table.

Off

Movement away from a surface or area

She stepped off the bus.

Towards/Toward

Movement in the direction of something

The dog ran towards the ball.

Through

Movement from one side to the other, indicating passage

We walked through the forest.

Across

Movement from one side to another, typically over a surface

He swam across the river.

Prepositions of Location

Prepositions of location describe the position of an object in relation to a larger, enclosed area or specific place. That is, these words indicate where something is situated within a defined space. 

The table here shows some common examples:

Preposition

Used for

Example Sentences

In

Inside an enclosed space or area

The cat is in the box.

On

Positioned on a surface

The book is on the table.

At

Being in a specific location or position

She is waiting at the bus stop.

Prepositions of Space

These prepositions describe the spatial relationship between objects or locations. They indicate how something is positioned in relation to another object or area in space. 

Check out these examples to get a better idea:

Preposition

Used For

Example Sentences

Above

Higher position in space

The bird is flying above the clouds.

Below

Lower position in space

The treasure chest is below the surface of the water.

Beside

Next to or alongside another object

The cat is sitting beside the dog.

Between

Position separating two other objects

The car is parked between two trees.

In front of

Position ahead of another object

The students are standing in front of the teacher.

Behind

Position at the back of another object

The car is parked behind the house.

Across

Movement from one side to another

She swam across the river.

Through

Movement from one side to the other side

The train passed through the tunnel.

Prepositional Phrases

A prepositional phrase is a group of words consisting of a preposition and its object. Moreover, it can also include any modifiers of that object. Here are some examples of prepositional phrases: 

  • In the box (preposition: in, object: box)
  • On the table (preposition: on, object: table)
  • Behind the car (preposition: behind, object: car)

Prepositional phrases act like an adverb or adjective in a sentence. That is, you can use these phrases to modify another noun or verb. Check out how prepositional phrases are used in these examples:

  • I went to the store after work. (prepositional phrase tells when)
  • The house on the hill is haunted. (prepositional phrase describes the house)
  • She ran through the park. (modifies verb "ran" - tells where she ran).
  • The flowers in the vase are beautiful. (tells where the flowers are).

How to Use Prepositions in Your Sentences?

If you’re an English speaker (whether as a first or second language), you are going to learn and use prepositions intuitively. However, to ensure that you’re using them correctly, you can follow these easy tips:

  • Understand the Meaning: Learn the meanings and general usage of different prepositions. You should also understand whether a preposition is used to convey location, time, or direction.
  • Know the Context: Consider the context of your sentence and choose the appropriate preposition that accurately conveys the intended meaning. For example, "on" is used for surfaces ("on the table"), while "in" is used for enclosed spaces ("in the box").

Unnecessary Prepositions

Prepositions can sometimes be misused or overused, leading to unnecessary clutter in sentences. 

  • Double Prepositions: One common problem is using double prepositions, which leads to wordiness and confusion. For example:

Incorrect: He climbed up onto the roof (Double preposition: “up” and “onto.”)

Correct: He climbed onto the roof.

Incorrect: She walked over to the other side (Double Preposition: “over” and “to.”)

Correct: She walked to the other side.

  • Specific Verbs: Another point to remember is that you should not use prepositions with certain verbs that imply direction and location, making prepositions unnecessary. For instance, “enter,” “reach,” and “exit.”

Incorrect: He entered into the room.

Correct: He entered the room.

Prepositions as Other Parts of Speech 

Finally, remember that prepositions are not a strict or exclusive category. Some words can be used as prepositions or as other parts of speech. 

For instance, words such as “since” and “like” are also used as conjunctions. Example:

  • Since: As a preposition, "since" indicates a starting point in time ("I have been studying English since Monday"). As a conjunction, it connects two clauses ("I have been studying English since I moved here").
  • Like: As a preposition, "like" compares things ("She runs like a cheetah"). As a conjunction, it introduces a clause ("It looks like it's going to rain"). 

So when you know which word prepositions are used in which contexts and in what ways, you’ll be able to use them more effectively.

In conclusion, 

Prepositions are an essential part of speech that you cannot do without. They are used in every conversation all the time, whether written or spoken. By knowing the function and usage of these words, you can effectively convey your ideas and be descriptive in your speech. 

Are you using prepositions and other parts of speech correctly in your writing? Don’t worry about ungrammatical writing anymore! Check your grammar with our AI grammar checker and correct your mistakes in one go!

And if you need help with academic writing, Try our essay writer AI that writes essays for you free according to your requirements. 

Continue Learning

If you want to learn more about academic writing, grammar, and related concepts, check out these blogs. 

Grammar


Writing


Citation

Dangling Modifiers

Essay Writing

APA format

Homophones

Essay Outline

MLA format

Infinitives

Paraphrasing

Chicago Style

Analogy

Thesis Statement

Harvard Style

Participle

Paragraph

IEEE Citation

Articles in Grammar

Summary

Oxford Referencing

Phrases

Plagiarism

ASA Format


Sentence Structure

ACS Citation

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Postpositions?

Postpositions are words or phrases that function similarly to prepositions, but are placed after the noun or pronoun they relate to rather than before. 

Although postpositions are common in many languages, such as Japanese, Turkish, and Korean. However, there are only a few of them in the English language. Words like "ago," "notwithstanding," and "apart" are examples of postpositions in English.

Can I end a sentence with a preposition?

Yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition. Although it was previously considered and taught as incorrect, most modern grammars now allow using prepositions at the end of a sentence. 

In fact, it is a common and natural feature of English. Attempting to avoid ending sentences with prepositions can often result in awkward or unnatural phrasing. For example:

  • Awkward: "To whom are you speaking?"
  • Natural: "Who are you speaking to?"

So, sometimes, ending with a preposition can improve the natural flow and clarity of sentences.

What is the difference between prepositions of location and prepositions of space?

Both types of prepositions are used to describe the position of objects in relation to each other. The difference between them is subtle and often depends on the context:

Prepositions of location describe the position of something in relation to a broader or larger point or place. They often describe static or fixed positions.

Prepositions of space describe the relationship between objects or people in terms of distance or direction. They indicate dynamic or changing positions.

  • E.g. "at," "in," and "on."
  • E.g. "behind," "near," "far," 

Sentence: The cat is on the table.

Sentence: The house is near the Church.

However, these two types are not mutually exclusive, and some words can be used both to indicate the location of a thing and its spatial relationship

Caleb S.

WRITTEN BY

Caleb S. (Masters)

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

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