What Is A Preposition? Types And Examples

Prepositions are a major part of grammar that allow us to write fun, complicated sentences. For example, a preposition can take a boring sentence like We ran and turn it into We ran to the enchanted castle in the pixie forest. Prepositions show up in many of our sentences and some of the most commonly used English words are prepositions. (And yes, we’ve just used what’s known as a prepositional phrase!) But what are prepositions anyway? And are they really that useful? Without wasting any more time, let’s learn about prepositions.

What is a preposition?

A preposition is any word that can be used to introduce a prepositional phrase. A preposition is paired with an object of a preposition to form a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases are phrases that can be used to modify nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. For example, the sentence Candice went to the bank uses the prepositional phrase to the bank to tell us where Candice’s destination was by modifying the verb went.

Prepositions include words with abstract or complex meanings such as for, of, in, with, and to. Typically, these words are paired with other words to create meaning using a prepositional phrase. For example:

  • The play was written by August Wilson. The preposition by indicates that August Wilson is the person who wrote the play.
  • I need to finish the work by next week. The preposition by indicates when the deadline is.
  • The package arrived by mail. The preposition by indicates the means of delivery.

Preposition examples

Let’s look at some common examples of prepositions and how we would use them in sentences.

List of common prepositions

Prepositions appear in lots of sentences, and some of the most commonly used words in the English language are prepositions. Some frequently used prepositions include:

  • to
  • for
  • of
  • from
  • by
  • in
  • on
  • at
  • with
  • about
  • among

Examples of prepositions in sentences

Typically, a preposition is the first word of a prepositional phrase. The following sentences show examples of how we use prepositions in sentences. The prepositions are highlighted:

  • I went to the store yesterday.
  • By tonight, it should stop raining.
  • For many people, Friday is the best day of the week.
  • We sat on the bench under the tree.
  • Lions are considered the kings of the jungle by many despite the fact that they live in the savannas of Africa.

Objects of prepositions take many forms, including countable and uncountable nouns, which you can read about here.

Types of prepositions

We use a lot of prepositions in sentences. Prepositions are often used to describe different types of relationships or abstract ideas. Some common instances where we use prepositions include references to location, direction, and time.

Prepositions of place/location

We can use prepositions to explain where something is located. When we do, we can describe the thing alone or by using spatial relationships.

Examples of prepositions of place & location examples

The following sentences give examples of prepositions that describe something’s location.

  • Jessica stood at the corner.
  • I live in Colorado.
  • The computer sits on the desk.

These next few sentences show how we can use prepositions to explain where something is located relative to something or somewhere else.

  • We sat at a table behind the mall.
  • The cow jumped over the moon.
  • Ed stuck the letter between the pages of the book.

Common prepositions that can also refer to location include:

  • at, in, on, by, inside, outside, under, over, across, above, below, beside, near, between, behind, and among

Prepositions of time

Prepositions can also be used to say when something happens.

Examples of prepositions of time examples

The following sentences show examples of how we can use prepositions to refer to time:

  • She went to the beach after work.
  • The festival starts on Saturday.
  • People wear spooky costumes during Halloween.
  • We won’t be able to move until next year.
  • The bank is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Commonly used prepositions that can refer to time include:

  • at, after, before, by, from, on, in, to, until, during, since, within, and for

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Prepositions of direction

Another common way we use prepositions is to refer to the direction in which something moves or travels.

Examples of prepositions of direction examples

Here are some examples of sentences that use prepositions to refer to direction:

  • The puppies ran toward their mother.
  • The coins fell into the water.
  • My fancy jeans came from Italy.
  • Lucy threw the football to Charlie.

Prepositions that can refer to directional movement include:

  • to, toward, in, into, on, onto, and from

Ending a sentence with a preposition

A common misconception is that it is grammatically incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition. This is not true, and it is perfectly acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. In fact, many sentences would sound weird to most people if they didn’t end in a preposition. For example, most people would say that the sentence I don’t know where the money came from sounds better than I don’t know from where the money came. Similarly, many would prefer to say This isn’t the food I asked for rather than The food for which I asked is not this.

While prepositions come at the end of many sentences in everyday speech and writing, it is generally preferred not to use them at the end of sentences in formal writing.

⚡️Examples of exceptions

Even in formal writing, though, ending a sentence with a preposition is sometimes very hard to avoid. For example, many commonly used idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs end in prepositions:

  • This noise is something that we shouldn’t have to put up with.
  • She really knows what she is talking about.
  • I wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at.

Prepositions vs. particles

Prepositions and particles may look the same, but they serve different functions in a sentence. A particle is a word that relies on another word for its meaning and does not stand on its own, such as the word to when it accompanies a verb (to run, to eat, to fly) or the word up when it forms a phrasal verb like cheer up. (Up does have a meaning of its own, of course, but in a phrase like cheer up it does not refer to a location!)

You can see why determining whether a word is functioning as a particle or a preposition in a sentence might be tricky. If you say Despite his injuries, the goalie played on, the word on is functioning as a particle. It’s attached to the verb play for meaning. If you say The children played on the grass, and their feet are muddy, then on the grass is a prepositional phrase explaining where the children played. On is functioning as a preposition.

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