# 12.15: Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases


## Prepositions

A preposition is a word that connects a noun or a pronoun to another word in a sentence. 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. Some prepositions, such as about and of can show a person's relation to an idea. Some preposition use is idiomatic, meaning that the usage is not based in a rule; rather, the usage is based in tradition.

### In, At, and On

The prepositions in, at, and on are used to indicate both location and time, but they are used in specific ways.

Table 12.15.1: In

Preposition Time Example Place Example
in 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
Degree Example Other Example
currency in Yen
language in German
Table - On
Preposition Time Example Place Example
on* 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
Degree Example Other Example
concerning on magic
Table - At
Preposition Time Example Place Example
at time at five o’clock addresses at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
with night at night location at Rooney’s Grill
Degree Example Other Example
temperature at 0 degrees Celcius idiomatic She is good at dancing

The table above also points out uses other than time and place.

Exercise 1

On a separate piece of paper, 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.

Sincerely,
Milani Davis

The table below has examples of the usage of other common prepositions.

Table 12.15.2 -- Common Preposition Usage

 Preposition Space Time Degree (measurement) Other about all around The dog ran about the yard. approximately It is about 1:00 p.m. approximately It is about 70 degrees Farenheit. concerning This is a book about mathematics. against contact I plywood leaned against the house. conflict I was against what Karen wanted to do. conflict The fight was five against three. internal He was taken against his will. external The team won against all odds. above higher than The tree towers above the house. more than The temperature is above freezing. idiomatic She is above reproach. He is above suspicion. around state The fence is around the dog run. approximately I scored around 1250 on the SAT. approximately I rang around four miles before pooping out. action The dogs ran around the dog park. before in front of In the painting, the buildings were before the mountains. earlier than Explorers reached the South Pole before astronauts reached the moon. below lower than The submarine was below the surface of the water. less than His test scores were below average. between at some point in relation to two entities The ball was stuck between the garbage can and the fence. at some point between two times They were going to meet up between 7 and 8 p.m. at some point between two measurements I weight between 150 and 160 pounds. idiomatic We an keep this secret between you and me, right? by near The cafe near the corner is the best. no later than Be home for dinner by 5:30 p.m. duplication The inchworm moved inch by inch. without help I can do my work by myself. degree of failure The arrow missed the target by a mile. alone He went shopping by himself. for goal We set out for Australia in our yacht. duration We have been together for three years. exchange I bought the top for $12. reason People travel to France for the art. distance I drove for 500 miles. goal/purpose We hunted for boar. from a starting point We ran the race from the beginning to the end. duration I worked from 8 to 5:30. beginning of range The temperature tomorrow will range from 48 to 58 degrees. source The Egyptians made paper from papyrus. origin I moved here from Chicago. cause The ground was charred from fire. of names of geographic locations or institutions I plan to transfer to the University of California. before I woke up at a quarter of six. portion I would like a cup of tea. possessive A friend of mine recently went on the trip of a lifetime. source The table was made of metal. over above She wore a shawl over her shoulders. spanning time Over the break, I did a thorough house cleaning. more than I had to wait more than one-half hour for my doctor. communication I read my news over the Internet. action above The pole vaulter made it over the pole. through penetrate The mountain lion snuck through the bushes. duration Through the years, I've learned a few things. endurance Through good times and bad, we make survive. to direction Kevin drove to the mountains. until I slept to 7 a.m. amount I will listen to the extent of my patience. accompany I listened to the radio. toward in the direction of I walked toward the Northwest. near It was toward 11 a.m. when things were stolen from my car. measurement The snow began to melt as the temperature headed toward 40F. goal People need to work together toward civil discourse. under below Moles burrow below the surface. less than I will be there in under fifteen minutes less than My dinner cost under$10. condition She admitted to the crime under duress. with alongside, near The painting was hung parallel with window. together I went with Amy to the movies. equal standing or ability John kept the lead with Jordan. in regard to I am happy with my purchase. manner They danced with style.

A beginner to prepositions may want to watch the following video, which shows the meaning of the words visually. This video mainly focuses on space and time meanings of prepositions.

## Prepositions after Verbs

Prepositions often follow verbs to create expressions with distinct meanings. In fact, some verbs require prepositions after them. These expressions are sometimes called prepositional verbs. It is important to remember that these prepositions cannot be separated from the verb.

Table 12.15.3 - Verbs + Prepositions

Verb + Preposition Meaning Example
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.
consist of to be made up of certain things My lunch consists of a turkey sandwich and an apple.
detract from to make less appealing The workload detracts from the salary that the job offers.
look after to watch or to protect someone or something Will you look after my dog while I am on vacation?
part with to give away or be separated from something I parted with a bookshelf of books when I moved.
rely on to depend on I rely on my alarm clock going off in the morning.
substitute for to replace something temporarily The flour substitutes for cornstarch in the gravy recipe.
talk about to discuss something We will talk about the importance of recycling.sus
speak to, with to talk to/with someone I will speak to his teacher tomorrow.
wait for to await the arrival of someone or something I will wait for my package to arrive.

Tip

It is a good idea to memorize these combinations of verbs plus prepositions. Write them down in a notebook along with the definition and practice using them when you speak.

Exercise 2

On a separate sheet of paper, complete the following sentences by choosing the correct preposition with the verb.

1. Charlotte does not ________ (apologize for, believe in) aliens or ghosts.
2. It is impolite to ________ (hear about, talk about) people when they are not here.
3. Herman said he was going to ________ (believe in, apply for) the internship.
4. Jonas would not ________ (talk about, apologize for) eating the last piece of cake.
5. I ________ (care about, agree with) the environment very much

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.

Table 12.15.4 - Adjectives + Prepositions

afraid of to fear something I am afraid of big dogs that bare their teeth.
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 in class.
content with to be satisfied with I am content with the grade in my math class.
to be dependent on to be reliant on something The ex-smoker was dependent on her oxygen tank to breathe.
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.
to be free from/or not shackled to something someone finds burdensome I was free from my obligations for the summer.
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.
to be sorry for to have pity or regret I am sorry for the things I said.
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.

Note:

The following adjectives are always followed by the preposition at:

• Good

She is really good at chess.

• Excellent

Henry is excellent at drawing.

• Brilliant

Mary Anne is brilliant at playing the violiin.

Exercise 3

On a separate sheet of paper, complete the following sentences by writing the correct preposition with adjective.

1. Meera was deeply ________ (interested in, thankful for) marine biology.
2. I was ________ (jealous of, disappointed in) the season finale of my favorite show.
3. Jordan won the race, and I am ________ (happy for, interested in) him.
4. The lawyer was ________ (thankful for, confused about) the details of the case.
5. Chloe was ________ (dressed in, tired of) a comfortable blue tunic.

## Idiomatic Preposition Usage

The following phrases -- many of them noun phrases -- are expressed in a particular way and should be memorized. There isn't a rule or particular that determines the preposition to use; thus, the whole phrase is an idiom and should be memorized together.

Table 12.15.5 -- Idiomatic Prepositions

 Idiomatic Phrase Example in the end In the end, the whole disagreement was a misunderstanding. talked about (not talked on) The president talked about current events. in case of In case of fire, break the glass. in charge of The principal was in charge of the high school. in favor of Most students were in favor of starting school at 9 a.m. on account of We were late on account of a broken down bus.* on behalf of We present this plaque on behalf of the city council. in the course of In the course of completing the project, we discovered some other problems. in the habit of I am in the habit of emailing people back within a day. in the name of Sue donated flowers in the name of her aunt, who had died. on the advice of I am quitting vaping on the advice of my doctor. on the basis of I am cancelling this subscription on the basis of cost. on the strength of The correlation was made on the strength of the data.

*Note that a noun or noun phrase must be used after on account of as the object of the preposition. Sometimes student try to follow this phrase with an entire sentence, which is not grammatically correct.

## Prepositional Phrases

Most of the time, prepositions begin prepositional phrases, which give more information about something in a sentence. As mentioned above, sometimes the verb you use requires a prepositional phrase after the verb. The subject of a sentence can never be the noun in a prepositional phrase. The subject is part of the core of the sentence, and the prepositional phrase is outside of that core. For more information , please see "Word Order and Sentence Structure" in section 12.2.

Example $$\PageIndex{1}$$

Subject verb preposition article noun(object of prep) infinitive gerund

Karen drove to the mountains to go skiing.

Sentence core prepositional phrase verbal phrase

Prepositions always must be followed by a noun in a prepositional phrase. Many times that noun will also be preceded by an article and/or an adjective.

Exercise 4

Underline the prepositional phrases in the following sentences. Do not underline any words that are not part of a prepositional phrase.

1. Under the moonlight, the coyotes howled and yipped.
2. I must finish my paper by Tuesday night.
3. I felt on top of the world when I learned I had one a prize!
4. Bill and Jordan thought they could play some basketball on Thursday after class.
5. Chihuahuas and pit bulls are popular dogs, but unfortunately, too many of them fill up animal shelters throughout the country.
6. Marta and Denise work toward understanding each others' points of view.

Exercise 5

Underline the prepositional phrases in the following sentences. Do not underline any words that are not part of a prepositional phrase.

1. Monica told us about her trip.

2. I hope we have sunshine throughout the summer.

3. The panther climbed up the tree.

4. The little boy was standing behind his mother's legs.

5. We stayed awake until dawn.