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How to Use Prepositions in English?

Published by at August 17th, 2021 , Revised On August 24, 2023

In the English language, we use prepositions or preposition words to express relationships between different components of a sentence.

They show relationships of direction, time, place, and other personal, rational, or theoretical connections.

Prepositions are placed before the object or the clause it intends to express the connection for.

  • He hasn’t come to
  • Environmental pollution is dangerous for the human species.
  • They drove to the restaurant.

A preposition is fundamental to the meaning of a sentence, but its use is generally flexible. Reading, listening, and practising can help you choose the correct prepositions even though their use is usually very tricky for non-native English speakers.

How to Use Prepositions

You will need prepositions to explain when, where, and how an action, incident, movement, or event took place.

Expressing the Relationship Examples
When He has been working with this company since 2014.

The interview was conducted at 11:00 AM.

Where He put food in the fridge.

The distance between point A and point B is 200 meters.

How I went to the market with my friend.

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Still, the use of prepositions is perplexing and confusing for non-native academic writers. The same proposition can be used to express different types of relationships, and so it is necessary to grasp the context to deduct the true meaning.

  • He drove to the sports complex.
  • This project was important to
  • Scotland is lagging behind other countries in the adoption of E-Commerce.
  • If someone is behind the times, they are old-fashioned.
  • This is the logic behind the suggested ad rate.

Make sure to choose the correct preposition because a wrong choice can change the meaning of the sentence. The below table shows how switching between commonly confused prepositions can alter the meaning of the sentence.

Examples of commonly confused prepositions

Examples Explanation
On or In? This study aims to investigate the impact of plastic pollution on Nigeria.

This study aims to investigate the impact of plastic pollution in Nigeria.

Use “in” to refer to a period of time within which a certain event or action occurred.

On and upon both mean the same thing, and there are often interchangeable.

In or During? Mark was born in 1987.

The grocery store will be open during the Christmas season.

I will visit Dubai in the next year.

Use “in” to refer to a period of time within which a certain event or action occurred. Use “during” when you need to express a state or situation that existed throughout a period of time.
For or Since? Rita has lived in Egypt since 2011.

Rita has lived in Egypt for twenty years.

“For” and “since” are often confused. Use “since” to speak of a certain point in time. Use “for” to refer to a period of time.
In, Into, Inside, or Within? The cat is in the cathouse.

The dog jumped into the pool.

There is a mouse inside the hat.

I will call you back within an hour.

“In” speaks of a location, while “into” explains the movement or direction in something that happened.

Use “inside” when referring to something enclosed.

“Within” means to be bounded by limits or to be inside something.


What Are Some Commons Prepositions?

There are more than 100 single-word prepositions in English. Most common prepositions express multiple relationships, even though some preposition words are used only for a specific purpose.

Most Common Prepositions

Location:  At, in, outside, inside, within, below, under, above, over, under, behind, by, on, etc.

Time: Until, since, before, after, during, at (time), on (day), in (month/year), etc.

Movement – Past, though, around, down, up, across, to, into, etc.

Other Type of Relationships – About, with, as, of, from, by, for, etc.

It is interesting to note that the rules surrounding prepositions in the English language are relatively flexible. There are no fixed rules about how to use each of the prepositions.

You can master this art through reading and practicing. It is always a good start to clearly understand the relationship between the elements in a sentence you are trying to describe.

What Are Multi-Word Prepositions?

While most of the prepositions are single-worded, you may find prepositions that are expressed in more than one word. They are known as multi-word prepositions.

You can also place multi-word prepositions next to verbs to define abstract and physical connections.

  • According to the statistical analysis, the ROI is similar to the previous one.
  • The cover glass was mounted on top of the slides due to space restrictions.

Like the single word prepositions, you will need to practice and persist in learning to use multi-word prepositions in sentences correctly because they can be expressed in several different ways.


Frequently Asked Questions

English preposition words show relationships between other words in a sentence. Examples:

  1. “in” – The cat is in the box.
  2. “on” – The book is on the table.
  3. “under” – The keys are under the chair.
  4. “Between” – She sat between Tom and Jerry.
  5. “with” – I went to the park with my friend.

About Alvin Nicolas

Avatar for Alvin NicolasNicolas has a master's degree in literature and a PhD degree in statistics. He is a content manager at ResearchProspect. He loves to write, cook and run. Nicolas is passionate about helping students at all levels.