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What are Prepositions?

Updated on June 28, 2012

What are Prepositions?

Prepositions: Where, When, and How

As far as parts of speech go, prepositions are the unsung heroes. Prepositions provide us with crucial information about their objects, and less directly, about their subjects. Without prepositions, we would be unsure about the where, when, and how of the clause. We'd be unclear about where Mary went or when exactly Thomas woke up. Without prepositions, we lose richness and clarity. Yet, most of us struggle now and then with finding the proper one, and few of us can name them all.

Below is a list of all American English prepositions. Absent this list are those prepositions unique to British English which, due to common exposure, Americans are occasionally inclined to use.


Prepositional phrases for a key element of the English clause.
Prepositional phrases for a key element of the English clause. | Source

List of Prepositions

Prepositions

  • aboard
  • about
  • above
  • across
  • after
  • against
  • along
  • amid
  • among
  • anti
  • around
  • as
  • at
  • before
  • behind
  • below
  • beneath
  • beside
  • between
  • beyond
  • but
  • by
  • concerning
  • considering
  • despite
  • down
  • during
  • except
  • excepting
  • excluding
  • following
  • for
  • from
  • in
  • inside
  • into
  • like
  • minus
  • near
  • of
  • off
  • on
  • onto
  • opposite
  • outside
  • over
  • past
  • per
  • plus
  • regarding
  • round
  • save
  • since
  • that
  • through
  • to
  • toward
  • under
  • underneath
  • unlike
  • until
  • up
  • upon
  • versus
  • via
  • with
  • within
  • without

So, What is a Preposition?

Defined

A preposition is a word without concrete meaning that modifies a noun or pronoun and may also define a relationship to another part of the clause. To put it another way, a preposition links nouns, pronouns, and phrases, and even dependent clauses, and clarifies its object in relation to the rest of the clause. For example, "The woman walked to the store with her cat." In this sentence, the prepositions are "to" and "with." Thanks to these prepositions, we learn WHERE the woman walked ("to") and HOW she walked there ("with").

In the following example, find the word that helps us understand WHEN: "Mike showered after his workout." Did you guess "after"? If so, great job! Thanks to our helpful preposition, we know that Mike worked out and then took a shower.

Prepositions are adverbial in form, but may behave as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs in function.


Preposition Practice

Find the Preposition(s)

Exercises:

  1. "James kept his favorite mug on the counter."
  2. "Andrew threw away his clothing, save his favorite blue shirt."
  3. "Eva looked toward the mountain peak and persevered."
  4. "Fatima left her camera atop the pile of boxes."
  5. "The puppy left the toy by the garden gate."
  6. "The ocean teems with life."


Answers:

  1. In this sentence, "on" is our preposition and tells us WHERE James kept his mug.
  2. Here, "save" is the preposition and tells us that Andrew threw away all his clothing except for his favorite blue shirt.
  3. "Toward," the preposition here, indicates WHERE Eva looked. Note: American English uses the form "toward," whereas British English uses to form "towards."
  4. "Atop" tells us WHERE Fatima left her camera - namely, sitting on a pile of boxes.
  5. In this case, "by" is our preposition and the prepositional phrase "by the garden gate" indicates WHERE the puppy left the toy. The preposition "by" often accompanies clauses written in passive voice, so keep an eye out for this one!
  6. "With" operates as the preposition here and tells us HOW the ocean teems.


Preposition Questions

Is Anything Unclear?

Now that we've explored these tiny little words, we've discovered that they're anything but simple. They fill our clauses with richness and clarity, providing us with valuable information. Do you have any additional examples or questions about prepositions? Let me know!

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    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 6 years ago from Western NC

      Great tips on how to use prepositions. :) Thank you for sharing this.

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