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What is a preposition?
A preposition is a word that connects a noun or a pronoun to another word in a sentence. It can show the relationship between the words it connects. Sometimes changing the preposition can change the meaning of the sentence completely.
There are some general rules about preposition use described below. Choosing the correct preposition often depends on knowing the standard patterns of usage for the words the prepositions connect to. Often consulting a dictionary will be the best way to determine the right preposition combination.
Prepositions for location and time
Most prepositions such as above, below, and behind usually indicate a location in the physical world, but some prepositions such as during, after, and until show location in time. The prepositions in, at, and on are used to indicate both location and time, but they are used in specific ways. The tables below show when to use each one.
|year||in 1942||country||in Zimbabwe|
|month||in August||state||in California|
|season||in the summer||city||in Chicago|
|time of day (not with night)||in the afternoon|
|day||on Monday||surfaces||on the table|
|date||on May 23||streets||on 124th Street|
|specific days/dates||on Monday||modes of transportation||on the bus|
|time||at five o’clock||addresses||at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue|
|with night||at night||location||at Rooney’s Grill|
Edit the following letter from a resident to her landlord by correcting errors with in, at, and on.
Dear Mrs. Salazar,
I am writing this letter to inform you that I will be vacating apartment 2A in 356 Maple Street at Wednesday, June 30, 2010. I will be cleaning the apartment at the Monday before I leave. I will return the keys to you on 5 p.m., sharp, at June 30. If you have any questions or specific instructions for me, please contact me in my office. I have enjoyed living at Austin, Texas, but I want to explore other parts of the country now.
Prepositions after verbs
Prepositions often follow verbs to create expressions with distinct meanings. These expressions are sometimes called prepositional verbs. It is important to remember that these expressions cannot be separated.
|Verb + preposition||Meaning||Sample sentence with the verb and preposition in bold|
|agree with||to agree with something or someone||My husband always agrees with me.|
|apologize for||to express regret for something, to say sorry about something||I apologize for being late.|
|apply for||to ask for something formally||I will apply for that job.|
|believe in||to have a firm conviction in something; to believe in the existence of something||I believe in educating the world’s women.|
|care about||to think that someone or something is important||I care about the health of our oceans.|
|hear about||to be told about something or someone||I heard about the teachers’ strike.|
|look after||to watch or to protect someone or something||Will you look after my dog while I am on vacation?|
|talk about||to discuss something||We will talk about the importance of recycling.|
|speak to, with||to talk to/with someone||I will speak to their teacher tomorrow.|
|wait for||to await the arrival of someone or something||I will wait for my package to arrive.|
For each of the sentences below, choose the correct verb and preposition combination to fit the meaning.
- Charlotte does not ________ (apologize for, believe in) aliens or ghosts.
- It is impolite to ________ (hear about, talk about) people when they are not here.
- Pavel said he was going to ________ (believe in, apply for) the internship.
- Jonas would not ________ (talk about, apologize for) eating the last piece of cake.
- I ________ (care about, agree with) the environment very much.
Prepositions after adjectives
Similar to prepositions after verbs, prepositions after adjectives create expressions with distinct meanings unique to English. Remember, like prepositional verbs, these expressions also cannot be separated.
|Adjective + preposition||Meaning||Sample sentence with the adjective and preposition in bold|
|angry at, about||to feel or show anger toward (or about) someone or something||I am angry about the oil spill in the ocean.|
|confused about||to be unable to think with clarity about someone or something.||Shawn was confused about the concepts presented at the meeting.|
|disappointed in, with||to feel dissatisfaction with someone or something||I was disappointed in my husband because he voted for that candidate.|
|dressed in||to clothe the body||He was dressed in a pin-striped suit.|
|happy for||to show happiness for someone or something||I was happy for my sister who graduated from college.|
|interested in||giving attention to something, expressing interest||I am interested in musical theater.|
|jealous of||to feel resentful or bitter toward someone or something (because of their status, possessions, or ability)||I was jealous of her because she always went on vacation.|
|thankful for||to express thanks for something||I am thankful for my wonderful friends.|
|tired of||to be disgusted with, have a distaste for||I was tired of driving for hours without end.|
|worried about||to express anxiety or worry about something||I am worried about my father’s health.|
Complete the following sentences by choosing the correct adjective and preposition combination to follow the verb.
- Meera was deeply ________ (interested in, thankful for) marine biology.
- I was ________ (jealous of, disappointed in) the season finale of my favorite show.
- Jordan won the race, and I am ________ (happy for, interested in) him.
- The lawyer was ________ (thankful for, confused about) the details of the case.
- Chloe was ________ (dressed in, tired of) a comfortable blue tunic.
Adapted by Anna Mills from Writing for Success, created by an author and publisher who prefer to remain anonymous, adapted and presented by the Saylor Foundation and licensed CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.