English Grammar: Prepositions
A Preposition is a word placed before a noun or a pronoun to show in what relation the person or thing denoted by it stands in regard to something else. A preposition is a word in a sentence that tells us about place, position, time or method.
The Noun or Pronoun which is used with a Preposition is called its Object. It is in the Accusative case and is said to be governed by the Preposition.
Some commonly used prepositions are:
for, in, into, at, on, of, by, to, off, with, over, from, through, above, behind, near, beside, under, below, beyond, between, among, till/ until, since, before, after, during
At, On, In (Time)
Usage: at for the time of day; on for days and dates; in for longer periods (for example: months/years/seasons)
- They arrived at 5 o'clock.
- They arrived on Friday.
- They arrived in October. / They arrived in 1998.
- At usually denotes a definite point of time: at 7 p.m., at this moment, at midnight, at the end of the class, at night, at dawn.
- On is used with days and dates: on Monday, on 1st June, on the annual day, on a May afternoon.
- In is used with parts of the day, and with months, years, seasons: in the morning, in September, in 2004, in winter.
- In is also used with the future tense to show the period in which an action will happen: in a week, in four hours.
On time = punctual, not late. If something happens on time, it happens at the time that was planned.
- The 11.45 train left on time. (= it left at 11.45)
- 'I'll meet you at 7.30.' 'OK, but please be on time.' (= don't be late, be there at 7.30)
- The conference was well-organised. Everything began and finished on time.
In time (for something I to do something) = soon enough, not too late
- Will you be home in time for dinner? (= soon enough for dinner)
- I've sent Varun a birthday present. I hope it arrives in time (for her birthday). (= on or before her birthday)
- I'm in a hurry. I want to get home in time to see the game on TV. ( =soon enough to see the game)
At the end (of something) = at the time when something ends.
- I'm going away at the end of January I at the end of the month.
- At the end of the concert, everyone applauded.
- The players shook hands at the end of the game.
In the end = finally. We use in the end when we say what the final result of a situation was.
- We had a lot of problems with our car. We sold it in the end. (= finally we sold it)
- He got more and more angry. In the end he just walked out of the room.
- Ajay couldn't decide where to go for his holidays. He didn't go anywhere in the end.
In and Within
In means at the end of; within means before the end of:
- I shall be back in a week. (when a week is over)
- I shall be back within a week. (before a week is over)
By refers to a point of future time and denotes the latest time at which an action will be over:
- The competition will be over by 6 p.m. (It should be over before it is 6 p.m., but the latest time at which it can be over is 6 p.m.)
We use by in many expressions to say how we do something. For example, you can:
- send something by post
- contact somebody by phone / by email
- do something by hand
- pay by credit card / by cheque
But we say pay cash or pay in cash (not usually by cash).
To say how somebody travels:
- by car / by train / by plane / by boat / by ship / by bus / by bike / by road / by rail / by air / by sea
But we say on foot:
- Did you come here by car or on foot?
You cannot use by if you say my car / the train / a taxi
By also means next to / beside:
- Come and sit by me. (= next to me)
- 'Where's the light switch?' 'By the door.'
Compare by and with:
- The door must have been opened with a key. (not by a key) (= somebody used a key to open it)
- The door must have been opened by somebody with a key.
For is used with periods of time to show the duration of an action. It is mostly used with perfect continuous tenses though it may be found with other tenses as well. For example,
- This discussion has been going on for two hours.
- I have worked in this office for two years.
Since marks the point of time at which an action began. It is used only if the action has continued till the time of speaking, hence it is found with perfect continuous tenses. For example,
- She has been teaching in this college since 2007.
- A cool breeze has been blowing since morning.
From denotes the starting point of an action and is used in all cases except when the action has continued till the moment of speaking. It is almost invariably used with to or till. For example,
- The examination will be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
- He was the Chief Minister of the state from 2005 to 2012.
At, In, On (Position)
At has the idea of an exact point and is, therefore, used with houses, villages, small towns. In has the idea of a larger area and is used while speaking of bigger towns, states, countries, etc.
Compare in and at
- There were a lot of people in the shop. lt was very crowded. Go along this road, then turn left at the shop.
- I'll meet you in the hotel Lobby. I'll meet you at the entrance to the hotel.
Compare in and on
- There is some water in the bottle.
- There is a Label on the bottle.
Compare at and on
- There is somebody at the door. Shall I go and see who it is?
- There is a notice on the door. lt says 'Do not disturb'
On and Upon
On is used while speaking of things at rest. Upon is used with things in motion. For example,
- The file is on the table.
- The dog sprang upon the table.
Into denotes movement towards the interior of something. For example,
- He jumped into the well.
- One stream flows into another.
Noun + Preposition
Noun + For
a demand / a need FOR
- The company closed down because there wasn't enough demand for its product.
- There's no excuse for behavior like that. There's no need for it.
a reason FOR
The train was late, but nobody knew the reason for the delay. (not reason of)
Noun + Of
an advantage / a disadvantage OF
- The advantage of living alone is that you can do what you like.
but there is an advantage in (or to) doing something
- There are many advantages in living alone.
a cause OF
- The cause of the explosion is unknown.
a picture / a photo / a photograph / a map / a plan / a drawing OF
- Rachit showed me some pictures of his family.
- I had a map of the town, so I was able to find my way around.
Noun + In
an increase / a decrease / a rise / a fall IN (prices etc.)
- There has been an increase in the number of road accidents recently.
- Last year was a bad one for the company. There was a big fall in sales.
Noun + To
- The accident was my fault, so I had to pay for the damage to the other car.
an invitation TO (a party / a wedding etc.)
- Did you get an invitation to the party?
a solution TO (a problem) / a key TO (a door) / an answer TO (a question) / a reply TO (a letter) / a reaction TO
- I hope we find a solution to the problem. (not a solution of the problem)
- I was surprised at her reaction to my suggestion.
an attitude TO or an attitude TOWARDS
His attitude to his job is very negative. (or His attitude towards his job)
Noun + with / between
a relationship / a connection / contact WITH
- Do you have a good relationship with your parents?
- The police want to question a man in connection with the robbery.
but a relationship / a connection / contact / a difference BETWEEN two things or people
- The police believe that there is no connection between the two crimes.
- There are some differences between British and American English.
Adjective + Preposition
lt was nice of you to
nice / kind / good / generous / polite / stupid / silly etc. OF somebody (to do something)
- Thank you. lt was very kind of you to help me.
- lt is stupid of me to go out without a coat in such cold weather.
but (be) nice / kind / good / generous / polite / rude / friendly / cruel etc. TO somebody
- They have always been very nice to me. (not with me)
- Why were you so unfriendly to Lucky?
Adjective + about / with
angry / annoyed / furious / upset ABOUT something or WITH somebody FOR doing something
- There's no point in getting angry about things that don't matter.
- Are you annoyed with me for being late?
- Kareena is upset about not being invited to the party.
excited / worried / nervous / happy etc. ABOUT a situation
- Are you nervous about the exam?
pleased / satisfied / happy / delighted / disappointed WITH something you receive, or the result of something
- They were delighted with the present I gave them.
- Were you happy with your exam results?
Adjective + at / by / with / of
surprised / shocked / amazed / astonished / upset AT or BY something
- Everybody was surprised at (or by) the news.
- I hope you weren't shocked by (or at) what I said.
impressed WITH or BY somebody/something
- I'm very impressed with (or by) her English. lt's very good.
fed up / bored WITH something
- I don't enjoy my job any more. I'm fed up with it. / I'm bored with it.
tired / sick OF something
- Come on, let's go! I'm tired of waiting. / I'm sick of waiting.
Sorry about / for
sorry ABOUT a situation or something that happened
- I'm sorry about the mess. I'll clear it up later.
- Sorry about last night. (= Sorry about something that happened last night)
sorry FOR or ABOUT something you did
- Aman is very sorry for what he said. (or sorry about what he said)
- I'm sorry for shouting at you yesterday. (or sorry about shouting)
You can also say 'I'm sorry I (did something)'
- I'm sorry I shouted at you yesterday.
feel / be sorry FOR somebody who is in a bad situation
- I feel sorry for Mohan. He's had a lot of bad luck. (not I feel sorry about Mohan)
Adjective + of
afraid / frightened / terrified / scared OF
- 'Are you afraid of spiders?' 'Yes, I'm terrified of them.'
fond / proud / ashamed / jealous / envious OF
- 'Why are you always so jealous of other people?
suspicious / critical / tolerant OF
- He didn't trust me. He was suspicious of my motives.
aware / conscious OF
- 'Did you know he was married?' 'No, I wasn't aware of that.'
capable / incapable OF
- I'm sure you are capable of passing the examination.
full / short OF
- Amit is a very active person. He's always full of energy.
- I'm short of money. Can you lend me some?
- He's late again. It's typical of him to keep everybody waiting.
certain / sure OF or ABOUT
- I think she's arriving this evening, but I'm not sure of that. (or not sure about that.)
Adjective + at / to / from / in / on / with / for
good / bad / brilliant / better / hopeless etc. AT
I'm not very good at repairing things. (not good in repairing things)
married / engaged TO
- Jassy is married to an American. (not married with)
- but Jassy is married with three children. (= she is married and has three children)
- Your writing is similar to mine.
different FROM or different TO
- The film was different from what I'd expected. (or different to what I'd expected.)
- Are you interested in art?
- We stayed at home because Charlie wasn't very keen on going out.
dependent ON (but independent OF)
- I don't want to be dependent on anybody.
crowded WITH (people etc.)
- The streets were crowded with tourists. (but full of tourists)
- The Italian city of Florence is famous for its art treasures.
- Who was responsible for all that noise last night?
Verb + Preposition
Verb + to
talk / speak TO somebody
- Who was that man you were talking to?
- We spent the evening listening to music. (not listening music)
apologise TO somebody (for)
- They apologised to me for what happened. (not They apologised me)
explain something TO somebody
- Can you explain this word to me? (not explain me this word)
explain / describe (to somebody) what/how/why
- I explained to them why I was worried. (not I explained them)
- Let me describe to you what I saw. (not Let me describe you)
We do not use to with these verbs:
phone / call / email / text somebody
- I called the airline to cancel my flight. (not called to the airline)
- He refused to answer my question. (not answer to my question)
- Can I ask you a question? (not ask to you)
thank somebody (for something)
- He thanked me for helping him. (not He thanked to me)
Verb + at
Look / stare / glance AT, have a look / take a look AT
- Why are you looking at me like that?
- I look stupid with this haircut. Everybody will laugh at me.
aim / point (something) AT, shoot / fire (a gun) AT
- Don't point that knife at me. It's dangerous.
- We saw someone with a gun shooting at birds, but he didn't hit any.
Some verbs can be followed by at or to, with a difference in meaning.
shout AT somebody (when you are angry)
- He got very angry and started shouting at me.
shout TO somebody (so that they can hear you)
- He shouted to me from the other side of the street.
throw something AT somebody/something (in order to hit them)
- Somebody threw an egg at the minister.
throw something TO somebody (for somebody to catch)
- Deepika shouted 'Catch!' and threw the keys to me from the window.
Verb + about
talk / read / know ABOUT, tell somebody ABOUT
- We talked about a lot of things at the meeting.
have a discussion ABOUT something, but discuss something (no preposition)
- We had a discussion about what we should do.
- We discussed a lot of things at the meeting. (not discussed about)
do something ABOUT something = do something to improve a bad situation
- If you're worried about the problem, you should do something about it.
Verb + for
ask (somebody) FOR
- I sent an email to the company asking them for more information about the job.
- but 'I asked him the way to ... ', 'She asked me my name' (no preposition)
apply (TO a person, a company etc.) FOR a job etc.
- I think you'd be good at this job. Why don't you apply for it?
- Don't wait for me. I'll join you later.
- I'm not going out yet. I'm waiting for the rain to stop.
search (a person / a place / a bag etc.) FOR
- I've searched the house for my keys, but I still can't find them.
Leave (a place) FOR another place
- I haven't seen her since she Left (home) for the office this morning. (not left to the office)
Care about, care for and take care of
care ABOUT somebody/something = think that somebody/something is important
- He's very selfish. He doesn't care about other people.
We say 'care what/where/how' etc. (without about)
- You can do what you like. I don't care what you do.
care FOR somebody/something
- I don't care for very hot weather. (= I don't like)
- Alok is 65 and lives alone. He needs somebody to care for him.
take care OF = look after, keep safe, take responsibility for
- Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself.
- I'll take care of the travel arrangements. You don't need to do anything.
Look for and Look after
look FOR = search for, try to find
- I've lost my keys. Can you help me to look for them?
look AFTER = take care of, keep safe or in good condition
- Alok is 65 and lives alone. He needs somebody to Look after him. (not look for)
- You can borrow this book, but you must promise to look after it.
hear ABOUT = be told about something
- Did you hear about the fire at the hotel yesterday?
hear OF = know that somebody/something exists
- 'Who is Varun' '1 have no idea. I've never heard of him.' (not heard from him)
hear FROM = be in contact with somebody
- Have you heard from Julie recently?' 'Yes, she called me a few days ago.'
think ABOUT and think OF
When you think ABOUT something, you consider it, you concentrate your mind on it
- I've thought about what you said and I've decided to take your advice.
- 'Will you lend me the money?' 'I'll think about it.'
When you think OF something, the idea comes to your mind
- lt was my idea. I thought of it first. (not thought about it)
- I felt embarrassed. I couldn't think of anything to say. (not think about anything)
We also use think of when we ask or give an opinion
- 'What did you think of the movie?' 'I didn't think much of it.' (= I didn't like it much)
The difference is sometimes very small and you can use of or about
- When I'm alone, I often think of (or about) you.
You can say think of or think about doing something (for possible future actions)
- My sister is thinking of (or about) going to Canada. (= she is considering it)
dream ABOUT (when you are asleep)
- I dreamt about you last night.
dream OF or ABOUT being something / doing something = imagine
- Do you dream of (or about) being rich and famous?
I wouldn't dream OF doing something / I would never do it
- 'Don't tell anyone what I said.' 'No, I wouldn't dream of it.' (= I would never do it)
complain (TO somebody) ABOUT = say that you are not satisfied
- We complained to the manager of the restaurant about the food.
complain OF a pain, an illness etc. = say that you have a pain etc.
- We called the doctor because Dhruv was complaining of a pain in his stomach.
remind somebody ABOUT = tell somebody not to forget
- I'm glad you reminded me about the meeting. I'd completely forgotten about it.
remind somebody OF = cause somebody to remember
- This house reminds me of the one I lived in when I was a child.
- Look at this photograph of Shekhar. Who does he remind you of?
warn somebody ABOUT a person or thing which is bad, dangerous, unusual etc.
- I knew he was a strange person. I had been warned about him. (not warned of him)
- Vicky warned me about the traffic. She said it would be bad.
warn somebody ABOUT or OF a danger, something bad which might happen later
- Scientists have warned us about (or of) the effects of climate change.
Verb + of
accuse / suspect somebody OF
- Sue accused me of being selfish.
- Some students were suspected of cheating in the exam.
approve / disapprove OF
- His parents don't approve of what he does, but they can't stop him.
die OF or FROM an illness etc.
- 'What did he die of?' 'A heart attack.'
- We had an enormous meal. lt consisted of seven courses.
Verb + for
pay (somebody) FOR
- I didn't have enough money to pay for the meal. (not pay the meal)
but pay a bill / a fine / a fee / tax / rent / a sum of money etc. (no preposition)
- I didn't have enough money to pay the rent.
thank / forgive somebody FOR
- I'll never forgive them for what they did.
apologise (TO somebody) FOR
- When I realised I was wrong, I apologised (to them) for my mistake.
blame somebody/something FOR, somebody is to blame FOR
- Everybody blamed me for the accident.
- Everybody said that I was to blame for the accident.
blame (a problem etc.) ON
- The accident wasn't my fault. Don't blame it on me.
Verb + from
suffer FROM an illness etc.
- There's been an increase in the number of people suffering from heart disease.
protect somebody/something FROM
- Sun block protects the skin from the sun.
Verb + on
depend / rely ON
- 'What time will you be home?' 'I don't know. lt depends on the traffic.'
- You can rely on Anna. She always keeps her promises.
You can use depend + when/where/how etc. with or without on
- 'Are you going to buy it?' 'lt depends how much it is.' (or lt depends on how much)
live ON money/food
- Arjun's salary is very low. lt isn't enough to live on.
congratulate / compliment somebody ON
- I congratulated her on doing so well in her exams.
- The meal was really good. I complimented Sanjeev on his cooking skills.
Verb + in
- Do you believe in God? (= Do you believe that God exists?)
- I believe in saying what I think. (= I believe it is right to say what I think)
but believe something (= believe it is true), believe somebody (= believe they are telling the truth)
- The story can't be true. I don't believe it. (not believe in it)
- Hema is a lawyer. She specialises in company law.
- I hope you succeed in finding the job you want.
Verb + into
- Our house was broken into a few days ago, but nothing was stolen.
crash / drive / bump / run INTO
- He lost control of the car and crashed into a wall.
divide / cut / split something INTO two or more parts
- The book is divided into three parts.
translate a book etc. FROM one language INTO another
- She's a famous writer. Her books have been translated into many languages.
Verb + with
- There was an accident this morning. A bus collided with a car.
fill something WITH (but full of)
- Take this saucepan and fill it with water.
provide / supply somebody WITH .
- The school provides all its students with books.
Verb + to
- What happened to that gold watch you used to have? (= where is it now?)
invite somebody TO a party I a wedding etc.
- They only invited a few people to their wedding.
prefer one thing/person TO another
Verb + on
- I tried to concentrate on my work, but I kept thinking about other things.
- I wanted to go alone, but some friends of mine insisted on coming with me.
spend (money) ON
- How much do you spend on food each week?