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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.

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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.

Essential English Grammar – A Friendly Approach

Lesson #43: Simple prepositions

Prepositions are short words such as, but, in, at, on, that come in different categories and indicate or express the relationship of a noun/pronoun with the rest of the sentence. There are simple, compound, double, participial, and double prepositions. The most common type of prepositions are simple prepositions, so we will focus only on simple prepositions.

Simple prepositions are short words that we use before a noun/pronoun to indicate the relationship of the noun to the verb, adjective, or another noun. Simple prepositions are composed mainly of two types; time and place.

Context

  • Hi, my name’s Henry. Nice to meet you.
  • Hello, good to meet you Henry. I’m Jane.
  • What do you do for a living, Jane?
  • Well, I’m a software engineer. I work at1 a software company in
  • That sounds like a very technical type of For how long have you been at2 the company?
  • I’ve been working there since 2009, but by3 next year I plan on moving and working for another company in4 south-east London.
  • Why did you decide to change your job?
  • It’s mainly because the commute5 to6 and from7 work is a real pain8. It takes me about two hours, and I have to commute through a lot of It’s hard work.
  • That’s a pity, but at least you managed to find another job that’s closer to your home now.
  • That’s right, and I only have to wait until9 next year before I can finally change jobs.
  • Best of luck to you.
  • Thanks. 

Analysis

  1. At: a preposition of place to describe a place (position at a point) where you are. ‘’I’m at Burger King’’. ‘’I work at home’’.
  2. At: a company is a place that’s located at a point somewhere, so we use the preposition, at.
  3. By: to denote time, that is, by can mean ‘no later than’.
  4. In: preposition of place and time. In is being used as a preposition of place meaning ‘in a large area’, such as a city or country. I.e., ‘’He lives in Paris’’.
  5. Commute: we use this word in English exclusively for the trip to and from work. ‘’He commutes every day to work, and it takes him twenty-five minutes’’.
  6. To: a preposition of place meaning ‘from one place to another place’, and time, for telling the time. I.e., ‘’I work from 21:00 to 23:00 every night’’.
  7. From: preposition of place meaning origin. I.e., ‘’I come from Nigeria’’. Also, it’s a preposition of time, I.e., ‘’He works from morning to dusk’’.
  8. A real pain: an expression denoting that something or someone is a bother.
  9. Until: preposition of time marking the beginning of something until it ends. I.e., ‘’I worked in the centre until 2010’’.

Section review

Prepositions: simple

 

  • I need to have my homework assignment done by next Tuesday, and I’m not sure If I’m able to finish it on
  • Sure, you can! Stop moaning about it and make time rather than complain.
  • What do you suggest I do then?
  • You need to do it at night, in the morning and on weekdays and weekends. If you do this, you’ll definitely finish your assignment by next Tuesday.
  • You’re right, but I can only really concentrate for about two hours at a time before I get demotivated and tired.
  • Well, If I were you, I would study in parts, that is, from 09:00 to 11:00, 12:00 to 14:00 etc.
  • Good idea. I guess I’m just not looking forward to doing so much work.
  • That’s school you know. You’ve got to do what they ask of you. When you complete it, we’ll go for a drink on
  • Great, I’ll look forward to it. 

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