Grammar Scholar : Understand Everything about Prepositions (Part -I)

By Sheetal Goyal|Updated : May 7th, 2020

Basics of Preposition: Today we are discussing in detail the next part of our series ''Grammar Scholar''. The aim of this series is to make you well versed with the important rules, common errors and other important knowledge from the perspective of exams which you should know to be proficient in English.

Today we will be discussing "Preposition" in this part. Prepositions are very important in Grammar because they are intended to connect different parts of the sentence into one. Through Prepositions, for example, in, on, and to, with, over, under, onto, into, and besides, we can know how something is in relation to something else. So let's understand Prepositions :

 Grammar Scholar: Prepositions

 Now Understand the following sentences :

  • There is some water in the bottle. ( the word in shows the relation between two things – water and bottle.)
  • He is fond of his daughter. (the word of shows the relation between the adjective fond and the noun daughter.)
  • He fell off the ladder. ( the word off shows the relation between the verb fell and the noun ladder.)

Although Prepositions usually come at the starting or end of a sentence, But sometimes prepositions can also come at the end of the sentences, For example :

  • The professor asked the students to indicate the reference book they are quoting from. (The preposition 'From' is ending the sentence)
  • The professor asked the students to indicate from which reference book they are quoting.

Types of prepositions

Prepositions are classified in the following categories :

1) Simple prepositions

The most common and most used prepositions come under this category. Some examples of Simple prepositions are  ''at, in, for, to, with, on, off, out, etc''.

  • He is in the office.
  • She sat on the bench.
  • She is angry with him.

2) Compound prepositions

The propositions which are generally formed by prefixing a Preposition to a Noun, an Adjective or an Adverb are known as Compound Prepositions.

  • The boys ran around the bench
  • The book is inside the cupboard
  • The fan is above the table

3) Phrase prepositions

Phrase prepositions are the groups of words that serve as prepositions. The words like "according to, along with, because of, in front of, by means of, on behalf of, in accordance with, in addition to, with reference to and in spite of'' are called as compound prepositions.

  • Owing to his ill health, he retired from business.
  • He succeeded by dint of perseverance and hard work.
  • She stood in front of the mirror.
  • I can’t get along with him.

 Important Rules Of Prepositions  

Following are listed the important rules of prepositions to make you understand of their correct usage.

Rule 1)

Beside and besides
Besides means ‘by the side of’. Besides means ‘in addition to’.

  • They have a house beside the sea. (by the side of the sea)
  • He stood beside me. (by my side)
  • He plays the violin beside the piano and the guitar. (He plays three instruments.)
  • Besides being a good actor, he is also a good singer. (= In addition to being a good actor, he is also a good singer.)

Rule 2)

Since and for
Since should be used with a point of time in the past. It is used with present perfect tense. For is used only when you refer to a period of time.

  • He has been absent since Tuesday. (NOT He has been absent for Tuesday.)
  • I have been ill since last week.
  • He has been absent for three days. (NOT He has been absent for three days.)
  • I have been ill for two weeks.

For is also used to indicate Duration, For example :

  • Incorrect: I will be attending the classes regularly since Monday.
  • Correct: I will be attending the classes regularly from Monday.

Rule 3) 

Use from to show the starting point only when the endpoint is also mentioned. In other cases, use since.

  • Incorrect: I have been waiting for two hours.
  • Correct: I have been waiting for two hours.

Rule 4)

Between and among

Between is used to refer to two or three separate people or things, which means when only two parties are involved. Among is used when the reference is to a group of people or things which we do not see separately which means when more than two parties are involved.

  • Divide the food among the children.
  • Divide this food between Riya and Raman.

Rule 5 )

By and with
By is used to refer to the doer of the action. With is used to refer to the instrument with which the action is performed.

  • The spider was killed by the boy.
  • The boy killed the spider with a stone.

Rule 6)

In and At

In is usually used with large places – countries, districts, large cities etc. At is generally used for small and unimportant places like villages, small towns etc.For example :

  • We shall meet him at the club this evening.
  • His brother lives in Paris.

Note: This rule is not very rigidly followed. In is often used with small places. At, however, is seldom used for big places.

Rule 7)

On, in, at and by

At shows an exact point of time; on shows a more general point of time and in shows a period of time. For example :

  • I have a meeting at 4 pm.
  • The train leaves at 2 o’clock.

  • I was born on a Monday.
  • I was born on April 21st.
  • I was born in January.

  • We will visit them in the summer.
  • It is very hot in the day but quite cold at night.

  • We went to school on foot. (Always Use ‘on’ with foot , using 'by' with the foot is incorrect)

By is also used to show the latest time at which an action will be finished. So it is usually used with a future tense. For example :

  • I will be leaving by 6 o’clock.
  • I hope to finish the work by next week.

Rule 8)

On and upon
On is generally used to talk about things at rest. Upon is used about things in motion.For example :

  • She sat on a chair.
  • He jumped upon his horse.

Rule 9)

In, within
With reference to time, in means at the end of a certain period; within means before the end of a certain period. For example :

  • I will finish writing this book in three days. (at the end of three days)
  • I will finish writing this book within three days. (before the end of three days.)

Rule 10)

Into and Onto
The difference between into and onto is similar to the difference between in and on.
  • He threw the hat onto the roof.
  • When she kissed the frog it turned into a handsome prince.

Rule 11)

Before, across and in front of
We do not normally use before to talk about position/place. Instead, we use in front of. The opposite of in front of is behind. As a preposition, before normally indicates the time. It is the opposite of after. Across is also a preposition which means ‘from one side to the other’.
  • There were hundreds of people in front of me in the queue.
  • I need to be there before 8 pm. (NOT I need to be there in front of 8 pm.)
  • My sister lives across the road.

Rule 12)


The proposition along is used with nouns that refer to things with long thin shape. Examples are: road, river, corridor, line

  • She ran along the road.
  • There are trees along the riverside.

Commonly confused prepositions

1)About and On

Both about and on can mean ‘regarding’. There is a slight difference of meaning. About used in the first sentence suggests that the discussion was ordinary. On used in the second sentence suggests that the lecture was serious or academic, suitable for specialists. For example :

  • We had a discussion about money.
  • He gave a lecture on finance.

2)Despite and in spite of

Despite and in spite of mean exactly the same, but despite is more common than in spite of. Both expressions are used for saying that something happens although something else might have prevented it. Both of the following sentences are correct to use

  • I enjoyed the movie despite having a headache.
  • I enjoyed the movie in spite of having a headache.

 Note: Never use 'of' after 'despite'. Always use 'of ' after 'in spite'.

3)Above and over

Above and over can both mean ‘higher than’. Above is preferred when one thing is not directly over another. Over is preferred when one thing covers or touches another.

  • The water came up above / over our waist.
  • There is a temple above the lake. (The temple is not directly over the lake.)
  • He put on a sweater over his shirt. (NOT He put on a sweater above his shirt.)

In measurements of temperature and height, we use above. In measurements of ages and speeds, we use over.

  • The temperature never rose above 5 degrees Celsius.
  • You have to be over 18 to see that film.

4)Across and through

The difference between across and through is similar to the different meaning on and inThrough is used for movement in a three-dimensional space, with things on all sides. Across cannot be used with that meaning. For example :

  • We went through the wood. (We were in the wood.)
  • The road goes through the forest.
  • We walked across the desert. (We were on the desert.)

5)Across and over can both be used to mean ‘on the other side of a line/road/bridge etc’. We prefer over when we say ‘on/to the other side of something high’.We prefer across when we say ‘on/to the other side of something flat’.

  • There is a hospital across/over the border. (= There is a hospital on the other side of the border.)
  • His shop is across / over the road. (= His shop is on the other side of the road.)
  • He jumped across/over the stream.
  • He climbed over the wall. (NOT He climbed across the wall.)
  • We swam across the river. (NOT We swam over the river.)

6)Along and through

To talk about periods or activities, we prefer through.  Along with when used as a preposition is followed by a noun. Along is used to talk about movement on or beside a line. Along is used with nouns like road, river, line etc: words that refer to things with long thin shape.

  • We walked along the road.
  • She was silent all through the journey. (NOT She was silent all along the journey.)

7)Compare to and compare with

To show likeness, compare is usually used with to. To show differences, compare is usually used with ‘with’. As a general rule, use compares with when differences are more important than similarities. Use compare to when similarities are more important. 

  • She likes to compare herself to her mother.
  • We can’t compare dogs with cats. (There are far more differences between them than there are similarities.)

Now try to answer the following questions to test your knowledge of Prepositions. Leave your answers in the comment section which will be reviewed by us.

1. I have known him ........................... our school days.  (For/Since/From)
2. I was waiting ......................... the bus stop when I met Larry. (At/On/In/From)
3. There is no way ............................ proving that he was lying (To/Of/For/By)
4. She spent years caring ..................... her sick husband (About/For/Of)
5. He has yet to recover .......................... his illness. (Of/From/With/Off)
6. We had a long discussion ……………………………….. politics. (About/At/For)

We hope you found this article helpful. Feel free to share your doubts and queries related to Prepositions in the Comment section.

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