Conquer The Confusing Prepositions: A Clear and Concise Guide

Explore the world of prepositions and learn how to use them effectively. This guide explains their types,  explores functions, clarifies common mistakes, and equips you to use them confidently in your writing.

Prepositions are words like "by", "at", "in", "for", etc.

What is a preposition?

A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other elements in a sentence. Prepositions often indicate location, direction, time, manner, or the relationship between different elements in a sentence.

Common prepositions include "in," "on," "at," "by," "with," "under," "over," "between," and "through." 

Here are a few examples of prepositions in sentences:

  • He is waiting at the bus stop.
  • The cat is sleeping in the basket.
  • The movie starts on Friday.

Object of Prepositions

Prepositions are typically used before nouns or pronouns. The nouns or pronouns used after prepositions are called the “object of preposition”.

  • The book is on the table. (“the table” is the object of the preposition “on”)
  • She walked to the park. (“the park” is the object of the preposition “to”)
  • I have a meeting at 2 p.m. (“2 p.m.” is the object of the preposition “at”)
  • He traveled by plane. (“plane” is the object of the preposition “by”)

Prepositional phrase

Preposition along with its object is called prepositional phrase. The object of a preposition is usually a noun or noun phrase.

Prepositional phrase = Preposition + Object of the Preposition

Here are some examples of prepositional phrases in sentences. The prepositions are underlined, and the objects are shaded. 

  • The book is on the shelf.
  • The flowers are blooming in the garden.
  • She greeted me with a smile.
  • The cat is hiding under the table.
  • We'll meet you at the park.

Types of Prepositions Based on Function

Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Based on their function, prepositions can be categorized into several types:

  1. Prepositions of Time
  2. Prepositions of Place or Position
  3. Prepositions of Direction or Movement 
  4. Prepositions of Agent or Instrument
  5. Prepositions of Purpose
  6. Prepositions of Possession
  7. Prepositions of Measurement or Amount

Now, let us learn more about them. It's important to note that some words can function as multiple types of prepositions depending on the context in which they are used.

Prepositions of time indicate when an action or event occurs. Some common prepositions of time are "in", "on", "at", "during", "before", "after", "since", "until", etc.


  • In: "She will arrive in an hour."
  • On: "The party is on Saturday."
  • At: "I will call you at 7 p.m."
  • During: "He studied during the summer."
  • Before: "We need to leave before sunset."
  • After: "The movie starts after dinner."
  • For: "I have been in the USA for a week."
  • Since: "I have known her since 2010."
  • Until/ till: "They played until midnight."
  • "Our school is cloze from Monday to Friday."
  • By: "Please submit your assignment by tomorrow."

Please note that these prepositions of time can have additional meanings and uses in different contexts.

Read more about prepositions of time.

2. Prepositions of Place or Position

Prepositions of place or position are used to indicate the location, position, or direction of something or someone. Some common prepositions of place are "in", "on", "at", "under", "over", "between", "beside", "behind", "in front of", "among", etc.

  • In: "The book is in the drawer."
  • On: "The book is on the table."
  • At: "She is waiting at the bus stop."
  • Under: "Some boys were playing under the tree."
  • Above: "Planes fly above the clouds."
  • Below: "The fish is swimming below the surface."
  • Near: "The Park is near my house."
  • Next to: "Our house is next to the public library."
  • Behind: "He is standing behind the tree."
  • In front of: "The car is parked in front of the house."
  • Between: "The ball is between the two chairs."
  • Among: "She found her keys among the books."

These prepositions of place and direction help provide information about the position, location, or movement of objects or people in relation to other objects or places.

Read more about prepositions of place & position.

3. Prepositions of Direction or Movement 

Prepositions of direction or movement indicate the direction in which someone or something is moving. Some common prepositions of direction or movement are "to", "from", "into", "onto", "through", "across", "along", "towards", etc.:


  • To: "He walked to the store."
  • From: "She traveled from Paris to London."
  • Into: "The cat jumped into the box."
  • Towards: "They are heading towards the beach."
  • Along: "They walked along the riverbank."
  • Across: "They swam across the lake."
  • Up: "She climbed up the stairs."
  • Down: "He slid down the hill."
  • Around: "They are driving around the city."
  • Through: "He walked through the forest."
  • Over: "She jumped over the fence."
  • Towards: "They are moving towards the goal."

Read more about prepositions of direction or movement.

4. Prepositions of Agent or Instrument

Prepositions of agent or instrument are used to indicate the means or instrument through which an action is performed or the person or thing that performs the action. Here are some common prepositions of agent or instrument:

By: This is the most common preposition used to indicate the agent or instrument of an action.

  • The book was written by the author.
  • The letter was typed by the secretary.

With: This preposition is often used to indicate the instrument or tool used to perform an action.

  • She cut the paper with scissors.
  • He painted the picture with a brush.

Through: This preposition can be used to indicate the means or agency by which something is accomplished.

  • They communicated through email.
  • The message was conveyed through sign language.

Via: Similar to "through," "via" is used to indicate a channel or medium through which something is done.

  • The package was shipped to us via express mail.
  • We reached our destination via a scenic route.

By means of: This phrase is a more formal way of expressing the agent or instrument.

  • The problem was solved by means of careful analysis.
  • The information was obtained by means of extensive research.

5. Prepositions of Purpose

Prepositions of purpose are used to show the reason or goal behind an action. They indicate the intended use or objective of an action. Here are some common prepositions of purpose:


  • I bought a gift for my friend's birthday.
  • He is studying hard for the upcoming exam.

With a view to:

  • She enrolled in the course with a view to improving her skills.
  • They made changes with a view to enhancing customer satisfaction.

With the purpose of:

  • The committee was formed with the purpose of promoting community welfare.
  • He took the job with the purpose of gaining experience in the field.

For the sake of:

  • He made sacrifices for the sake of his family's well-being.
  • They worked overtime for the sake of completing the project ahead of schedule.

We often use to infinitives to indicate purpose. Remember that here "to" is not a preposition here. "To" is the infinitive marker. 


  • She went to the store to buy groceries.
  • They worked diligently to complete the project on time.

In order to:

  • We are saving money in order to travel next summer.
  • She wakes up early in order to exercise before work.

So as to:

  • He stood on a chair so as to reach the top shelf.
  • We took a shortcut so as to avoid heavy traffic.

We can indicate purpose with the use of "in order that" also.

In order that:

  • She left a note in order that her colleagues would know where she went.
  • They worked together in order that the project would be successful.

6. Prepositions of Possession

Prepositions of possession are used to indicate ownership or possession of something. They establish a relationship between the possessor and the object being possessed. Here are some common prepositions of possession:


  • The color of the car is blue.
  • The pages of the book were torn.
  • The keys are of him.
  • The decision is of the team.
  • The capital of France is Paris.
  • The name of the company is XYZ.

[Belong] to:

  • The book belongs to Sarah.
  • The house belongs to my parents.


  • The girl with the red hair is a friend of mine.
  • The man with the hat is the owner of the restaurant.

But most often we use apostrophe s ['s] or possessive adjectives to indicate possessions. 

's (apostrophe-s):

  • This is John's car.
  • The cat's tail is fluffy.

Possessive Adjectives (my, your, his, her, its, our, their):

  • This is my computer.
  • Is that your jacket?

7. Prepositions of Measurement or Amount

Prepositions of measurement or amount are used to express the quantity or degree of something. They indicate the extent, size, or measurement of an object or action. Here are some common prepositions of measurement or amount:


  • The room is 10 feet in length.
  • She bought a dress that is available in various sizes.


  • The bookshelf is measured by inches.
  • He calculated the area by square meters.


  • The temperature is currently at 25 degrees Celsius.
  • We estimated the distance at about five kilometers.


  • The painting is on a canvas of 24 inches on each side.
  • The report is on 20 pages.


  • The package consists of three items.
  • The project requires a budget of $10,000.


  • The price is $5 per item.
  • The car can travel 30 miles per gallon.


  • She filled the container with three liters of water.
  • The basket is filled with apples.


  • The bridge spans to a length of 100 meters.
  • The meeting lasted to three hours.

  • The temperature varies from 20 degrees to 30 degrees.
  • The event will take place from Monday to Friday.

These prepositions help provide information about the quantity, measurement, or amount of various elements in a sentence.

Types of Prepositions Based on Forms

Level: Advanced

Based on their form, prepositions can be categorized into several types:

1. Simple Prepositions

These are single-word prepositions that indicate relationships of place, time, direction, and manner.


  • At: She is waiting at the bus stop.
  • In: The cat is sleeping in the basket.
  • On: The book is on the table.
  • By: He goes to work by car.
  • For: This gift is for you.
  • With: She went to the party with her friends.
  • Of: The pages of the book are torn.

In these examples, the prepositions (at, in, on, by, for, with, of) indicate various relationships, such as location, time, possession, direction, and more, between the nouns or pronouns and other elements in the sentences.

2. Compound Prepositions

Compound prepositions are formed by prefixing a Preposition to a Noun, an Adjective or an Adverb.


  • About: The book is about a boy.
  • Across: Go across the river.
  • Along: Walk along the road.
  • Around: Look around you.
  • Before: Look before you leap.
  • Behind: Stand behind me. 
  • Beside: Stand beside me.

3. Double Prepositions

These are prepositions formed by combining two simple prepositions. They are used together to indicate a relationship.


  • Into: He jumped into the water. [into = in + to]
  • Onto: The cat climbed onto the roof. [onto = on + to]
  • Upon: The keys fell upon the floor. [upon = up + on]
  • Within: The store is within the mall. [within = with + in]

In these examples, the double prepositions (into, onto, upon, within) are formed by combining two simple prepositions.

4. Participle Prepositions

These are present or past participles used as prepositions. They often convey a sense of cause, condition, or manner.


  • During: During the storm, we stayed indoors.
  • Excluding: The office is open every day excluding weekends.
  • Concerning: I have a question concerning your proposal.
  • Notwithstanding: Notwithstanding his injury, he finished the race.
  • According to: According to the report, the company is doing well.
  • Given: Given the situation, I think we should postpone the meeting.

In these examples, the present participles (considering, during, excluding, following, concerning, regarding, notwithstanding, touching, pending, according to, barring, given, adjoining, occupying, concerned) are used as prepositions to provide additional information or context within the sentences.

5. Phrase Prepositions

Phrase prepositions are made up of multiple words and convey specific relationships or conditions within the sentences. The most common phrase prepositions are - in spite of, because of, on behalf of, in addition to, due to, as well as, as of, in front of, in terms of, with respect to, by means of, in reference to, in place of, on top of, in regard to, etc. Here are some examples of phrase prepositions in sentences:

  • In spite of: In spite of the rain, the game continued.
  • Because of: Because of his hard work, he earned a promotion.
  • On behalf of: On behalf of the team, I would like to thank you for your support.
  • In addition to: In addition to his regular job, he volunteers at the local food bank.
  • Due to: The flight was canceled due to bad weather.
  • As well as: She is skilled in programming as well as graphic design.
  • As of: As of January 1st, the new policy will be implemented.
  • In front of: The cat is sitting in front of the fireplace.
  • In terms of: He is successful in terms of both his career and personal life.
  • With respect to: With respect to the recent events, we have increased security measures.
  • By means of: The message was delivered by means of a courier.
  • In reference to: In reference to your question, the answer is yes.
  • In place of: She used olive oil in place of butter in the recipe.
  • On top of: The keys are on top of the table.
  • In regard to: We need to discuss the matter in regard to the budget.

Omission of Prepositions 

Level: Intermediate

Prepositions "in", "on", and "at" are omitted when the nouns of time precede "this", "last", "next" & "every":

  • This (This morning, this week, etc.)
  • Last (Last night / last week)
  • Next (Next year, next Friday)
  • Every (every day/ every year)

Omission of Object   

We often omit relative pronouns as the object to a Preposition.

  • This is the book I am looking for. [Here 'which' is understood].
  • I’m a man more sinned against. [Here 'whom' is understood.]

Same Words Used as Prepositions & Other Parts of Speech

Level: Advanced

Preposition or Conjunction?

Conjunctions must be carefully distinguished from Prepositions, which are also connecting words. Here are some words used both as Prepositions and Conjunctions.

1. After

  • Preposition:  Don’t run after the rain.
  • Conjunction: Come here after the rain stops.

2. For

  • Preposition:  He is rewarded for his honesty.
  • Conjunction: He is rewarded, for he is honest.

3. Since 

  • Preposition:  He has been absent since Friday.
  • Conjunction: Many things have happened since he went.

4. Till

  • Preposition:  Wait here till night. 
  • Conjunction: Wait here till I return.

5. But 

  • Preposition:  None but Mike is absent. 
  • Conjunction: All are present, but Mike is absent.

6. Before 

  • Preposition:  He sat before me.
  • Conjunction: He came here before the show started.

Preposition or Adverb?

Several words are used sometimes as Adverbs and sometimes as Prepositions.

1. Before

  • I could not come before. (Adverb)
  • I could not come before the time. (Preposition)

2. In

  • Can I go in? (Adverb)
  • Can I go in the room? (Preposition)

3. Outside

  • They are waiting outside the club. (preposition)
  • They are waiting outside. (adverb)

Preposition Stranding & Pied Piping

Level: Advanced

Preposition Stranding

A preposition is generally used before its object. But sometimes the preposition is separated from its object. It is called preposition stranding. It is opposite to preposition pied piping.

Here are some examples of preposition stranding:

1. Original: To whom are you talking?

  • Stranded: Who are you talking to?

2. Original: For what are you looking?

  • Stranded: What are you looking for?

3. Original: I don't know from where he comes.

  • Stranded: I don't know where he comes from.

4. Original: She is the person with whom I want to be.

  • Stranded: She's the person I want to be with.

Preposition Pied-Piping

Sometimes both the preposition and its object are moved to the front of a sentence for the purpose of emphasize. This is called preposition pied piping. It is opposite to preposition stranding, where the preposition is separated from its object.

Here are some examples of pied piping:

1. Original: I am interested in the book.

  • Pied-Piping: In the book, I am interested.

2. Original: She traveled with her family.

  • Pied-Piping: With her family, she traveled.

3. Original: They live in that house.

  • Pied-Piping: In that house, they live.

Online Quiz

Select the correct answer

Q1. Airplanes fly-----the clouds.
Q2. The boy excelled-----English.
Q3. The boy is clever-----geometry.
Q4. He took advantages-----absence of me.
Q5. Russia is rich-----gas resources.
Q6. Don't laugh-----the poor.
Q7. He died-----cholera.
Q8. Maradona is known-----all.
Q9. Put your dress-----and go to school.
Q10. We should believe-----.
Q11. She is sitting-----the children.
Q12. The man was guilty-----theft.
Q13. He is looking-----his lost book.
Q14. He has no capacity-----doing this.
Q15. He is strong-----English.