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Simple prepositions

Simple prepositions are short words that we usually use before a noun/substantive to indicate the relation of the noun to a verb, an adjective, or another noun. English prepositions form a very large list, over 150 in total, and they can be very tricky to master with a lot of exceptions to every rule. The most common prepositions in English are simple prepositions like: at, in, on, by, to, for, until, since, before, after, about, from, with etc. The list of prepositions is very long and here in this lesson we will elaborate on simple prepositions of time and place.

Simple prepositions of time: at, in, on, by, until, to, before, since, ago, past and for.
Preposition
Use
Examples

At

  • Weekends, any clock time (at 16:00), nights

  • Let’s meet at the weekend.
  • We saw you at 17:30 last Friday.
  • At night time, we love to party.

In

  • Any time of day, years, months and time periods (in the holidays, vacations)

  • I was born in 1990.
  • The festivals are held in July.
  • What are you going to do in the holidays/spring break?

 On

  • days of the week

  • We’re going to see each other on Monday.
  • I caught up with her on Tuesday.

 By

  • When someone or something is close to someone or something

  • The trees are by the river.
  • I live by my friend. 

 Until

  • Marks the beginning or start of something until it ends

  • We have English lessons from 17:00 until 18:00 every day.

 To

  • Strictly for telling the time

  • I saw him from morning to night.
  • Let’s meet from 20:00 to 22:00

Before

  • Used to reference a time that was before another time

  • Before last Saturday I hadn’t known what my task was.

 Since

  • To reference a point in time

  • He’s been living in the United States since 2009.

 Ago

  • Used to reference a certain time in the past

  • Ten years ago we left Ireland to go to the United Kingdom.

Past

  • Used only as a reference to clock time.

  • At 10 past 17:00, I’ll meet you by the tower.
  • It’s 15 past 15:00

 For

  • Duration of time, a period of time.

  • Our daughter has been here all her life.
  • I’ve been living in London for eight years.
Simple prepositions of place (direction and position): at, in, on, by, from, to, through, across, above, over, under, into, onto, towards and next.
Preposition
Use
Examples

At

  • Position at a point
  • Uses for common names, such as buildings, companies etc.
  • Used with collective or group activities
  • Meet me at the store.

  • I work at Burger King, at English reservoir, at the Empire State Building. 

  •  I’m at a party/class/martial arts…

 In

  •  very large areas

  • 3-d space

  • I live in Spain/New York/England/Manchester.
  • We’re in a room/classroom/cube 

 On

  • Position on a line

  • Surface

  • ‘On’ means ‘attached to’. 

  • Their work is on the way to the lake.

  • My pen is on the table

  • I have a ring on my finger.

 By

  • Meaning ‘beside’ someone or something.  
  • Used to talk about an action; what we do to get a result. 
  • I was standing by him to keep an eye on him.
  • I broke the window by kicking it.  

 From

  • Used for origin, in the sense of where something or someone originates from. 

  • Maria is from Paris. 

 To

  • Used for movement and directions 

  • I’m leaving soon to go to our friend’s house.

  • We went to Bali on holiday.  

Through

  •  Used for referring to something with limits but can be traversed ‘through’.   

  • We left in our car and drove through some hotspots/a tunnel/a cave etc. 

 Across

  • Used for indicating another side to something.  

  • We flew across America from New York to San Francisco. 

  • I live across the road to Jim. 

 Above

  • Indicates anything that is higher than another thing.  

  • The plane flew above our heads.
  • The buildings are above us.

Over

  • Used to mean that something or someone is covering another thing.
  • Meaning ‘more than’.
  • Used when an obstacle has been overcome.  
  • My blindfold is over my eyes, I promise!
  • To enter our disco you need to be over 18 years old.
  • I ran over many hurdles in order to get to this point.  

 Under

  •  Indicates something being lower than another thing or person.  

  • Our basement is under the house.
  • There’s a lot of mice under our flat.  

 Into

  • ‘In’ to indicate a place that is being entered. ‘To’ indicates movement.  

  • We got into the bar around 18:00/He’s flying into Beijing,  

 Onto

  • ‘On’ equals the surface or the top of a thing or person and ‘to’ equals movement.  

  • We fell onto the grass while running.  

 Towards

  •  Indicates ‘movement’ but not precise or direct movement which in that case we’d use ‘to’. 

  • She’s thinking about headings towards the South Pole.
  • Let’s go towards his house.  

 Next

  • Very similar to ‘by’ in that it means someone or something is beside another person or thing.  

  • Harry is sitting next to Kate.
  • I love working next to her.

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