Perhaps you had to memorize every preposition (there are well over 100) when you were in junior high school, but have you ever thought about the importance of these “little” words? Prepositions are little words with a big purpose: they show relationships of time, place, and space.
We might call them “glue” words because they bring other words together in ways that create meaning. Look at something you’ve read recently and take out the prepositions. Here is an example of a sentence written with and without prepositions:
With prepositions: As soon as I closed the door, the turkeys that had been waiting at the wood line ran to eat the corn I had just put out for the squirrels.
Without prepositions: As soon I closed the door, the turkeys that had been waiting the wood line ran eat the corn I had just put out the squirrels.
They may be generally small in letters, but prepositions are important words that give great meaning for time and place relationships among actions, objects, and ideas. It’s important to distinguish if you are throwing a ball to someone or at someone. Did you want your sandwich with or without onions? Do you need that zombie fort built at the end of summer or before the end of summer?
Even though they are small words, prepositions can be difficult—particularly for someone learning English—because their use isn’t always logical. As an example, most mid-Westerners speak of standing in line, but many on the East coast speak of standing on line. It would be a lot of fun and quite enlightening to write some sentences using some of the prepositions on the following page and then comparing those sentences with a friend from a different part of the country.
Although you no longer have to memorize the preposition list, it can be helpful to review the list of some of the most common prepositions and think about the meaning for each one.
Of course, it’s important to remember that many of these words can also be different parts of speech. English is fun, right?
As you work to make good decisions about your preposition choices, you should consider the following preposition tips:
- It’s actually acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. Contemporary scholars and writing style guides acknowledge the acceptability of ending a sentence with a preposition (Casagrande, 2006). It’s natural and conversational to write short sentences that end with prepositions.
- Did you find what you were looking for?
However, you should be aware that some professors prefer that you don’t end a sentence with a preposition. See how correctness is relative?
- You should avoid unnecessary prepositions because using prepositions unnecessarily can make your writing wordy and even confusing.
- I am not [for] sure I have the answer.
- Frank apparently fell off [of] his horse while doing a stunt for a YouTube video.
- The difference between "beside" and "besides" can be confusing. Beside means next to. Besides means in addition to.
- The difference between "between" and "among" can also be confusing. You should use between when referring to two people or things, and you should use among when referring to more than two people or things.