Prepositions in English

Introduction

Prepositions are little words (at, in, to) that usually come before a noun (and sometimes also before a verb, if it’s a gerund).

Example

The weather was so nice on Tuesday that Mr Norris decided to leave his car at the car park and walk home after work.

Even advanced learners of English often have trouble with prepositions, because you can’t translate them one-to-one from your native language.

To learn the correct usage of prepositions, all you can do is look them up in a dictionary, read a lot in English, and learn important prepositional phrases by heart.

In the following table we present some rules for commonly-used prepositions:

List of Important Prepositions

In the following tabels, we have listed some rules for commonly used prepositions.

Prepositions are often used together with verbs (e.g. get on). We explain this use of prepositions over at Phrasal Verbs.

Prepositions of Time

PrepositionUsageExample
as of/from the time or date something begins I’m on holiday as of/from tomorrow.
ago a certain time or date in the past two years ago
at night-time at night
referring to the weekend
(but AE: on)
at the weekend
(am. Engl.: on the weekend)
certain times (when?) at half past nine
Public holidays (Without a day) at Christmas, at Easter
before before a certain time or date before 2004
by in the sense of at the latest I will be back by 6 o’clock.
before/up until a certain point in time By 11 o’clock I had read five pages.
during within a period of time during the summer holidays
for during a certain period of time
(compare: since)
for two years
from … until/
till/to
when something begins and ends from Monday until/till/to Friday
in months/seasons in August / in winter
a section of the day in the morning
specific years in 2006
approximate time (when?) in an hour, in the past,
in the future
on weekdays on Monday
Dates on 16th May
Public holiday (with a day) on Easter Monday
past for times of day (on the clock)
(AE also: after)
ten past six (6:10)
(am. Engl. auch: ten after six)
since starting at a certain point in the past
(compare: for)
since 1980
to for times of day (on the clock)
(AE also: before, of, till)
ten to six (5:50)
(AE also: ten before/of/till six)
until/till in the sense of how much longer something will last He is on holiday until/till Friday.

Prepositions of Place and Movement

In der folgenden Tabelle haben wir wichtige Präpositionen aufgelistet, mit denen wir Angaben zur Position bzw Richtung machen können.

PrepositionUsageExample
above higher than something else, but not directly over it The castle stands above the town.
across to get to the other side to walk across a bridge
to swim across a lake
against in opposition to Barcelona is playing against Manchester tonight.
in contact with something, either supported by it or colliding with it Michael stood with his back against the wall.
at in the sense of next to, in front of, by at the door, at the station
sitting at a table (for a meal) at the table
at an event at a concert, at the party
a place where people do a certain activity (see films, learn, work) at the cinema, at school, at work
visit/appointment at sb’s house, at the doctor’s
behind located directly behind There is a beautiful garden behind the house.
below under something, but above the floor/ground The fish are below the surface.
by, next to, beside located very close to Jane is standing by/next to/beside the car.
from from/out of a place a flower from the garden
in room, building, street, town, country in the kitchen, in hospital, in London, in Ireland
book, newspaper, etc. in the book
car, taxi in the car, in a taxi
picture, world in the picture, in the world
into to enter a room or a building to go into the kitchen/house
in front of located directly before/in front of There are two men in front of the house.
on attached the picture on the wall
located by a river London lies on the Thames.
on a flat surface on the table
on a side (left, right) on the left
on a floor/storey (of a building) on the first floor
public transportation on the bus, on a plane
television, radio, internet on TV, on the radio, on the internet
onto up on to something to jump onto the table
over when something else is covered Put a jacket on over your shirt!
in the sense of more than over 16 years of age
to get to the other side (also across) to walk over a bridge
to cross a high obstacle to climb over a wall
through edges above, below, and on both sides to drive through a tunnel
to to a person, to a building to go to the cinema
to a place, to a country to go to London/Ireland
to go to the USA
to bed to go to bed
to work to go to work
towards in the direction of something (but not all the way there) to go 5 steps towards the house
under under something, but on a floor/surface The bag is under the table.

Other Important Prepositions

PrepositionUsageExample
about for subjects, in the sense of about what We were talking about you.
at for ages She learned Russian at 45.
by the creator, author, etc. a book by Mark Twain
increase/climb, decrease/sinking Prices have risen by 10 percent.
travel in a vehicle by car, by bus
from the person bringing it is mentioned a present from Jane
of possessive case for things a page of the book
on to travel (foot, horse) on foot, on horseback
with in the company of someone/something with my parents, with a friend
having something a woman with red hair
indicating a material/instrument used to do something The scratch was treated with an anticeptic.

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