LEARN A WORD A DAY

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Prepositions

A preposition is a word governing, and usually coming in front of, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element, as in:

  • She left before breakfast.

  • What did you come for?
    (For what did you come?)
Prepositions list

There are about 150 prepositions in English. Yet this is a very small number when you think of the thousands of other words (nouns, verbs etc). Prepositions are important words. We use individual prepositions more frequently than other individual words. In fact, the prepositions of, to and in are among the ten most frequent words in English. Here is a short list of 70 of the more common one-word prepositions. Many of these prepositions have more than one meaning. Please refer to a dictionary for precise meaning and usage.
  • aboard
  • about
  • above
  • across
  • after
  • against
  • along
  • amid
  • among
  • anti
  • around
  • as
  • at
  • before
  • behind
  • below
  • beneath
  • beside
  • besides
  • between
  • beyond
  • but
  • by
  • concerning
  • considering
  • despite
  • down
  • during
  • except
  • excepting
  • excluding
  • following
  • for
  • from
  • in
  • inside
  • into
  • like
  • minus
  • near
  • of
  • off
  • on
  • onto
  • opposite
  • outside
  • over
  • past
  • per
  • plus
  • regarding
  • round
  • save
  • since
  • than
  • through
  • to
  • toward
  • towards
  • under
  • underneath
  • unlike
  • until
  • up
  • upon
  • versus
  • via
  • with
  • within
  • without
English Preposition Rule

There is one very simple rule about prepositions. And, unlike most rules, this rule has no exceptions.

Rule
A preposition is followed by a "noun". It is never followed by a verb.

By "noun" we include:

  • noun (dog, money, love)
  • proper noun (name) (Bangkok, Mary)
  • pronoun (you, him, us)
  • noun group (my first job)
  • gerund (swimming)

A preposition cannot be followed by a verb. If we want to follow a preposition by a verb, we must use the "-ing" form which is really a gerund or verb in noun form.

Quick Quiz: In the following sentences, why is "to" followed by a verb? That should be impossible, according to the above rule:

  • I would like to go now.
  • She used to smoke.

Here are some examples:

Subject + verbpreposition"noun"
The food isonthe table.
She livesinJapan.
Tara is lookingforyou.
The letter isunderyour blue book.
Pascal is usedtoEnglish people.
She isn't usedtoworking.
I atebeforecoming.

Answer to Quick Quiz: In these sentences, "to" is not a preposition. It is part of the infinitive ("to go", "to smoke").

Prepositions of Place: at, in, on

In general, we use:

  • at for a POINT
  • in for an ENCLOSED SPACE
  • on for a SURFACE
atinon
POINTENCLOSED SPACESURFACE
at the cornerin the gardenon the wall
at the bus stopin Londonon the ceiling
at the doorin Franceon the door
at the top of the pagein a boxon the cover
at the end of the roadin my pocketon the floor
at the entrancein my walleton the carpet
at the crossroadsin a buildingon the menu
at the front desk in a caron a page

Look at these examples:

  • Jane is waiting for you at the bus stop.
  • The shop is at the end of the street.
  • My plane stopped at Dubai and Hanoi and arrived in Bangkok two hours late.
  • When will you arrive at the office?
  • Do you work in an office?
  • I have a meeting in New York.
  • Do you live in Japan?
  • Jupiter is in the Solar System.
  • The author's name is on the cover of the book.
  • There are no prices on this menu.
  • You are standing on my foot.
  • There was a "no smoking" sign on the wall.
  • I live on the 7th floor at 21 Oxford Street in London.
Notice the use of the prepositions of place at, in and on in these standard expressions:

atinon
at homein a caron a bus
at workin a taxion a train
at schoolin a helicopteron a plane
at universityin a boaton a ship
at collegein a lift (elevator)on a bicycle, on a motorbike
at the topin the newspaperon a horse, on an elephant
at the bottomin the skyon the radio, on television
at the sidein a rowon the left, on the right
at receptionin Oxford Streeton the way

Prepositions of Time: at, in, on

We use:

  • at for a PRECISE TIME
  • in for MONTHS, YEARS, CENTURIES and LONG PERIODS
  • on for DAYS and DATES
atinon
PRECISE TIMEMONTHS, YEARS, CENTURIES and LONG PERIODSDAYS and DATES
at 3 o'clockin Mayon Sunday
at 10.30amin summeron Tuesdays
at noonin the summeron 6 March
at dinnertimein 1990on 25 Dec. 2010
at bedtimein the 1990son Christmas Day
at sunrisein the next centuryon Independence Day
at sunsetin the Ice Ageon my birthday
at the momentin the past/futureon New Year's Eve

Look at these examples:

  • I have a meeting at 9am.
  • The shop closes at midnight.
  • Jane went home at lunchtime.
  • In England, it often snows in December.
  • Do you think we will go to Jupiter in the future?
  • There should be a lot of progress in the next century.
  • Do you work on Mondays?
  • Her birthday is on 20 November.
  • Where will you be on New Year's Day?

Notice the use of the preposition of time at in the following standard expressions:

ExpressionExample
at nightThe stars shine at night.
at the weekendI don't usually work at the weekend.
at Christmas/EasterI stay with my family at Christmas.
at the same timeWe finished the test at the same time.
at presentHe's not home at present. Try later.

Notice the use of the prepositions of time in and on in these common expressions:

inon
in the morningon Tuesday morning
in the morningson Saturday mornings
in the afternoon(s)on Sunday afternoons
in the evening(s)on Monday evening

When we say last, next, every, this we do not also use at, in, on.

  • I went to London last June. (not in last June)
  • He's coming back next Tuesday. (not on next Tuesday)
  • I go home every Easter. (not at every Easter)
  • We'll call you this evening. (not in this evening)

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Collection of SPM English Language Question Papers

2005
Terengganu Trial [Paper 1]

2007
Johor Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Terengganu Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Pahang Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2] [Answers], Melaka Trial 2007 [Paper 1] [Paper 2], TIMES [Paper 1] [Paper 2] SPB [Paper 1] [Paper 2]

2008

Terengganu Mid Year [Paper 1] [Paper 2],
Trial
MRSM Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], SBP Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Kelantan Trial [Paper 1 & 2], Terengganu Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Kedah Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Pahang Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Johor Trial [Paper 1 & 2], Perlis Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Sabah Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Sarawak Trial [Paper 1 & 2], Melaka Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2]

2009

Terengganu TOV [Paper 1] [Paper 2] Terengganu Mid Year [Paper 1] [Paper 2]
Melaka Trial , Johor Trial , Sabah Trial , Kedah Trial , Perlis Trial , Times , SBP , Pahang Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2]

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