Prepositions: Rules and Usage English Grammar CBSE/ICSE Schools

Preposition is a very important part of any sentence structure. A wrong use of preposition would result in an awkward or just weird meaning of a sentence. Here are given some rules with examples. Click here for more Grammar topics.

Preposition: A preposition is a word placed before a noun, pronoun or gerund. It denotes the relation of the person or thing with something else.

Examples:
a) The milk is in the jug.
In this sentence – in shows the relation between the nouns milk and jug.

ii) I am fond of swimming.
In this sentence – of shows the relation between the words fond and swimming.

As given in the examples above, a word such as a noun, pronoun or gerund following a preposition is said to be the object of the preposition. It is always in the objective case.

A preposition is always followed by a noun and never by a verb. If we want a verb to follow a preposition, we must use the -ing form of that particular verb, which should be a gerund (verb in a noun form).

e.g., I am very fond of swimming. (The base verb ‘ride’ here takes the Gerund (‘ing’) form)


Kinds of Prepositions

i) Simple Preposition: They include 

at, by, for, in, of, off, on, out, through , till, to, up, with etc.

ii) Compound Preposition: These are usually formed by prefixing a preposition ( a or be) to a noun, adjective or adverb. These include –  

about, above, across, along, amidst, among, amongst, around, before, behind, beneath, beside, between, beyond, inside, outside, underneath, within, without etc.

iii) Phrasal/Group Preposition: These are formed by joining two or more words. These include phrases like –

according to, in accordance with, in place of, agreeable to, in addition to, in reference to, along with, in (on) behalf of, in regard to, away from, in case of, in spite of , because of, in comparison of , instead of , by dint of , in compliance with, in the event of, by means of, in consequence of, an account of, by reason of, in course of, owing to, by virtue of , in favour of, with a view to, by way of, in front of, with an eye to, conformably to, in lieu of, with reference to, for the sake of, in order to, with regard to etc.

iv) Participle Preposition: When present participles are used without any noun or pronoun attached to them, these are called participle prepositions. These include –

barring, concerning, passing, considering, during, notwithstanding, pending, regarding, respecting, touching etc.


Classes of Prepositions

To make a distinction, Simple Prepositions can also be divided into three classes:

i) Prepositions of Time and Date: These include –

at, on, in, by, to, till, until, during, for, since, from, within, before, after, afterward, then etc.

ii) Prepositions of Place: These include –

at, in, on, to, behind etc.

iii) Prepositions of Travel and Movement: These include –

 from, to, by , on, in, into, at, out of, off etc.


Position of a Preposition

Prepositions normally precede nouns or pronouns. However, in certain cases it is possible to move the preposition to the end of the sentence.

i) When an object of the preposition is an interrogative pronoun like what, who, whom, which, where etc, the preposition can take the end or the beginning of a sentence, like –

a) What are you thinking of?
b) To whom were you talking?

ii) When the object of the preposition is the relative pronoun ‘that’, the preposition takes the end position.
e.g., This is the dish that she is fond of.

iii) When the object of the preposition is infinitive (to + verb), the preposition is placed after the infinitive.
e.g., It is a beautiful house to live in.

iv) In some sentences, where the relative pronoun is hidden, the preposition takes the end position.
e.g., This is the girl (that) I told you of.

v) In some sentences, prepositions are attached with the verb.
e.g., I hate being laughed at.


Some Common Prepositional Usages

At/In

i) At shows stationary position or existing state.

e.g., She is at home.
Also, at noon, at the age of ninety.

ii) In shows movement.

e.g., The train is in motion.

Also, it is used to express a period of time.

e.g., in February, in the morning, in the yea 1992, in summer etc.

iii) At is also used for a small place and for a precise point of time.

e.g., a) He lives at Govindpur in Prayagraj.

b) The train will arrive at six in the morning.

In the above sentences, we can see that in is used for a big place, town, city etc and for a period of time.

To/Into

i) To is used in the following cases

a) To specify direction:  Turn to the left.
b) Destination: I am going to Jaipur.
c) Until: From Monday to Friday, five minutes to ten.
d) Comparison: They prefer cricket to hockey.
e) With indirect objective:  Please give it to me.
f) As part of the infinitive:  I want to help you.
g) In order to: We went to the store (in order) to buy soap.

ii) Into is used in the following cases

a) To the inside:  We stepped into the room.
b) Change in condition: The boy changed into a man.
c) To denote movement: He jumped into the well.

Beside/Besides

i) Beside: at the side of

e.g., a) He was sitting beside Sarla.
b) We camped beside a lake.

ii) Besides: in addition to/as well as

e.g., a) He has a car besides a motorcycle.
b) Besides doing the cooking. I help him.

Between/Among

i) Between is used for two things or persons, but it can also be used for more than two when we have a definite number in mind and there is a close relationship/association within them.

e.g., a) He distributed his property between his two sons.
b) A treaty was signed between the three parties.

ii) Among is usually used for more than two persons or things when we have no definite number in mind.

e.g., a) He was happy to be among his friends again.
b) He distributed his property among the poor.

With/By

With is used for instruments and by is used for agents.

e.g., The snakes were killed by him with a stick.

Under/Underneath

Under is used for living beings.

Underneath is used for non-living things only.

e.g., a) Hide this underneath the table.
b) I work under Mr Singh.
c) He is holding under the table.

On/Upon

On is used when two things are touching each other. Upon is used when one thing is located directly above the other thing.

e.g., a) We sat on the chair.
b) The cat jumped upon the chair.

Of/Off

These are used in the following situations, referring to

i) Location: East of here, the middle of the road
ii) Possession: a friend of mine, the sound of music
iii) Part of group: one of us, a member of the team
iv) Measurement: a cup of milk, two metres of snow
v) Not on, away or from or removal: Please keep off the grass
vi) At some distance from: There are islands off the coast.

During/For

i) During is used with known periods of time i.e. period known by name, such as Christmas, Diwali; or periods which already have been defined.

e.g., during the Middle Ages, during the winter etc.

ii) For may be used to denote purpose and may also be used before known periods.

e.g., I went there for the summer.
They went to the club for partying.

Since/From

i) Since is used to denote a point in time and never for a period of time.

e.g., It has been raining since 6 o’clock.

Since can also be used as an adverb.

e.g., He left school in 1983. I haven’t seen him since.

ii) From is normally used with to or till/until.

e.g., Most people work from eight to six.

From can also be used to denote place.

e.g., He is from Mumbai.

Before/After/Afterwards

i) Before is used in reference of two events.

e.g., The train had left before he reached the station.

ii) After is a preposition while afterwards in an adverb. Afterwards can be used at either end of a clause and can be modified by soon, immediately, not long etc. After is followed by a noun, pronoun or gerund.

e.g., a) After visiting them, we came back.
b) We visited them and afterwards they came back.
c) Soon afterwards, I got a call from him.

Out/Out/Out of

i) On is used for a place of work and also for a mode of travel.

e.g., on an estate, on the railway, on a bicycle.

On is also used with days and dates.

e.g., on 25th February, on Thursday.

ii) Out is used mostly with get, like get out of a vehicle, get out of the house etc.

Till/Until

i) Till means up to. It can be used with ‘from’ or without it.

a) We work from 10 AM to/till 6:30 PM.
b) We work till 6:30 PM.

ii) Until means up to a time or before. We use until when the activity continues throughout the period up to the time limit.

The office will remain opened until 7 PM.


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