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12.15: Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases

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    20710
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    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
    communication on the radio
    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.

    Video \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    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.
    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?
    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

    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.

    Table 12.15.4 - Adjectives + Prepositions

    Adjective + Preposition Meaning Example
    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.
    worried about to express anxiety or worry about something I am worried about my father’s health.

    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.

    Contributors and Attributions

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    • Learn Prepositions Easily. Authored by: Jennifer Banks. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License.

    This page last updated on June 8, 2020.


    12.15: Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Athena Kashyap & Erika Dyquisto.