You must have heard that prepositions are crucial building blocks of English expressions. Without prepositions, you really can’t do much. However, prepositions are also rather tricky to work with. There are certain cases when you need to use only a particular preposition and anything apart from that will be wrong. Let us look into the details.

Preposition Rules: 

Did you know there are hundreds of prepositions in the English language? A fun way to remember prepositions is that they are words that tell you everywhere a bunny can run; for example, a bunny can run:










With some of these popular prepositions in mind, let’s look at a few important rules for prepositions.

1. Pair Prepositions Properly

Determining which preposition to use can be a tricky proposition. It’s especially difficult when dealing with idioms – expressions in the English language that don’t necessarily make sense when taken literally. Here are some examples of idioms, along with the correct prepositions:

  1. George would love to attend the party.
  2. You’re capable of anything you set your mind to.
  3. The teacher is concerned by Janette’s consistent tardiness.

2. Watch What Follows Prepositions

Prepositions must always be followed by a noun or pronoun. That noun is called the object of the preposition. Note that a verb can’t be the object of a preposition. Let’s look at two examples:

a)The bone was for the dog.

This is correct. The preposition for is followed by the noun “dog.”

b)The bone was for walked.

This is not correct. The preposition for is followed by a verb “walked.” A verb can never be the object of a preposition.

3. Avoid Using Prepositions at the End of Sentences

Because prepositions must be followed by a noun and have an object, they should rarely be placed at the end of a sentence. For example, it’s generally not correct to say:

a. The table is where I put my books on.

However, there are certain circumstances where it is acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. These exceptions exist where the preposition isn’t extraneous. In other words, the preposition needs to be there, and if it wasn’t, the meaning of the sentence would change.

In the above example, the use of the preposition “on” isn’t necessary. We could remove “on” and the meaning would be the same. Therefore, the preposition was extraneous or unnecessary. That said, here’s an example where it’s perfectly acceptable to use a preposition at the end of a sentence:

b)I turned the TV on.

If you removed “on” from the end of this sentence, it would change the meaning. Instead of switching on the set, you would be saying that you turned the TV itself. Alternatively, this could be written as:

“I turned on the TV.”

4. Don’t Confuse “In” and “Into”

When you want to express motion toward something, use “into” rather than “in.” Reserve “in” for moments when you want to indicate a location. Here are some examples:

a)I swam in the lake. (Indicating location)

b)I walked into the pub. (Expressing motion)

c)Look in the cupboard. (Indicating location)

c)She drove into the city. (Expressing motion)

5. Try Not to Interchange “Than” and “From”

We’ll close with more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule. It deals with the word “different.” Try to avoid this:

You look different than your mother.

Instead, opt for:

You look different from your mother.

7 Common Mistakes with Prepositions and How to Correct Them:

Mistakes with prepositions are the most common type of grammatical mistakes. Even if you are quite fluent in English, it is still likely that you may get your prepositions wrong at times. Here’s a short list of 7 common mistakes that people usually do with prepositions:

  1. Incorrect:     I cannot agree to you in this situation.

       Correct:        I cannot agree with you in this situation.

2. Incorrect:     He agreed with my demands.

       Correct:        He agreed to my demands.

3. Incorrect:     She is waiting the arrival of the postman.

        Correct:        She is waiting for the arrival of the postman.

4. Incorrect:     Please wait inside the white line.

       Correct:        Please wait behind the white line.

5. Incorrect:     I have been waiting from three hours.

       Correct:        I have been waiting for three hours.

6. Incorrect:     He reached at the airport at 3 pm.

       Correct:        He reached the airport at 3 pm.

7. Incorrect:     The flight will depart in 8:00 am.

       Correct:        The flight will depart at 8:00 am.

In A Nutshell:

Prepositions provide clues and link the remainder of a sentence together. They have a very important role to play and it is necessary to remember how they can be used, which prepositions can be used when, and where they belong in the sentence.

About the Author

Indulekha Prabha

My name is Indulekha Prabha. I am an English teacher and a content writer by profession. When I'm not working you can find me writing fiction, reading poetry and painting.

View All Articles