1. A preposition may be defined as a word or group of words (e.g. at, in, out of, etc.) used before a noun, pronoun, gerund, etc. to show its relation with another word in a sentence.
- They came here at 5 p.m.
- He was born in 1980.
- She went out of the room.
These prepositions relate to time, place, position, direction, means, etc.
2. Prepositions of Time:
At is used to indicate when something happens. We use at with clock times, e.g. periods of the year, and periods of the day, festivals, etc. But we don’t use at with ‘morning’, ‘evening’, ‘afternoon’, etc.
- The train left at 8 o’clock.
- She used to go to temple at Dussehra and Diwali.
- He came here at the weekend.
- She married at the age of twenty.
- I called on my friend at night.
- We rested at noon/dawn/dusk.
In is used to indicate the period of time in which something happens. We use ‘in’ with centuries, years, seasons, months, periods of the day ‘morning’, ‘evening’, ‘afternoon’: English literature flourished in the 16th century.
- She was born in 1990.
- They visited this place in summer.
- He called on me in the evening.
- The theft took place in the day-time.
- My father went to the U.S.A. in October.
- It all happend in three minutes/hours/days/years.
On is used with days, dates, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
- We went to see a movie on Tuesday.
- He was born on October 3,1980.
- We congratulated him on his birthday.
- We gave them a gift on their 20th marriage anniversary.
Note: We use ‘on’ with ‘morning’, ‘afternoon’, ‘evening’, etc. when they are modified:
- They reached here on a hot afternoon.
- People did not come out of their houses on a night like this.
- We went for fishing on a pleasant morning.
During may be used instead of‘in’ with periods of the day, months, seasons, years, decades and centuries to express the idea that something continues throughout the whole of a specified period.
- During the war many people were killed.
- We work during the day and sleep during the night.
- We try to contact people during October.
- During the nineties many taxes were imposed.
- She used to ring up many times during the week.
- During the journey I came to respect her.
By is used to indicate the latest time at which an action will be finished:
- He will finish this work by 5 o’clock.
- By that time, the moon was up.
- You must come to me by 8 a.m.
- Applications must be received by 10th May.
By can be used instead of during with almost the same.
- We took rest by day and travelled by night.
- By mid afternoon about 5,000 people had visited the exhibition.
For is used with periods of time to indicate how long an action lasts. It is generally used with the Perfect Tense but is also used with other tenses.
- They have lived here for five years.
- It rained continuously for twelve hours.
- We stayed there for fifteen days.
- They have been working for two hours.
- She will not be here for another three hours.
Since is used with a point of time in the past from which some action began and it continues till the time of speaking. It is generally used with the Perfect Tense:
- He has lived here since 1980.
- Everything has changed since the last summer.
- It has not rained since the end of June.
- He had been writing novels since he was thirty years old.
From indicates the starting point of an action in the past or future. It is always used with ‘to’ or ‘till’:
- They lived here from 1980 till/until 1990.
- We worked from morning to/till evening.
- She lived with them from the age of twenty.
- He lives in his office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- She is interested in the period from 1950 to 1960.
Till and Until are used to show something happening or done up to a particular point in time and then stopping:
- He is expected to be here until/till the end of the week.
- I was employed by the company until 1980.
- You will have to wait until my return.
(x). Before and After:
The preposition before and after are used to relate events to a particular time. Before means earlier than and after means later than something.
- I get up before six.
- She returned before Monday.
- They came here after 8 o’clock.
- We went to Paris four years after our marriage.
3. Prepositions of Place:
At is used to show the exact point,
Example: houses, stations, small villages and towns:
- They lived at Gohana, a small town in Haryana.
- He was born at his village, Shilmar.
- The Prime Minister lives at 10 Downing Street.
- She works at the Town Hall.
- The plane landed at London airport.
- The train stopped at New Delhi Railway Station.
In is generally used when the reference is not to any specific place or to the names of large cities, countries, continents, etc.
- Many people in India live in villages.
- They used to live in Bengaluru.
- The Indians live in India.
- They lived in Europe for ten years.
On is used to indicate a particular area of land or place where something is:
- He spent a few days on an island.
- He worked on a farm for sometime.
- They built their house on a beautiful piece of land.
- There is a school on the outskirts of the city.
- The hotel stands on the banks of a river.
4. Prepositions of Direction:
From is used with the starting point or point of departure from a place or the point of origin:
- They came from China.
- We started from Chennai.
- The train from Kolkata has arrived.
- She comes from office at 6 p.m.
- He fell from the fifth floor of the hotel.
Off means from the surface of and also down from:
- He took the hat off the table.
- The boy fell off the tree/roof.
- The ball rolled off the floor.
- Keep off the grass.
- Take this packet off the shelf.
(iii). Out of:
Out of means from the interior of something:
- He went out of the room.
- The bird flew out of the cage.
- She jumped out of the shelf.
- I saw him coming out of the library.
⇒ Direction Towards:
For is used to show direction only when the verb indicates the beginning of a movement:
- She left for Japan early in the morning.
- We set off for New York
- They left for home late at night.
Against means to have contact or pressure:
- The child threw the ball against the wall.
- The crowd pressed against the door.
- He put the ladder against the wall.
- She stood, with her back against the well.
- He hit his head against the branch.
To is used for destination or the end-point:
- He went from Delhi to Ambala.
- She is came to India as a tourist.
- The train started from Kolkata and came to Delhi.
- He was on his way to the station.
- We went from London to New York.
Towards is used to indicate the direction of something:
- They went towards the airport.
- He was speeding towards the town.
- The train was coming towards the station.
- I saw him hurrying towards me.
- He stood with his back towards me.
- She marked towards the river.
- He ran forwards the door.
5. Prepositions of Position:
Under is used to indicate a position that is below or beneath something. It means vertically below:
- The dog was under the table.
- He looked under the bed.
- They took shelter under the trees.
- The water flows under the bridge.
Underneath has the same meaning as under. It means a position below something.
- She found a lot of dust underneath the carpet.
- The coin rolled underneath the table.
- He hid the gun underneath the bed.
- He left the key underneath the mat.
‘ Underneath’ generally implies covered by something so that the object covered is not seen.
(iii). Below and Beneath:
Below means in a position lower than something:
- They could see the village below them.
- The lake is 500 feet below the sea level.
- He had a wound below the left shoulder.
- You should write below this line.
(iv). Beneath also means a lower position than something:
- They found the body beneath a pile of grass.
- The boat sank beneath the waves.
Beneath has the sense of directly under something.
Over is used to indicate a position vertically above something or somebody or partly or completely covering the surface of something.
- She hung the calendar over the fireplace.
- There were books all over the table.
- They held a large umbrella over her.
- There was a lamp (hanging) over the table.
Above is used to indicate a position higher than something:
- There were clouds above us.
- The water came above our knees.
- The pilot was flying above the clouds.
- The birds were flying high above the trees.
- We lived in the room above the shop.
Above has the sense of something being directly over something else.
6. Prepositions of Travel and Movement:
Across is used to indicate movement from one side of a space, area, line to the other side:
- I walked across the road.
- The cat ran across the lawn.
- They flew across the Pacific.
- He walked across the street.
Along is used to indicate movement from one end to or towards the other end of something. The place is seen as a line:
- We walked along the street.
- She went along the corridor.
- He hurried along the path towards me.
Into is used to indicate movement inside a place seen as a volume. The opposite of into is out of. It is used for entering a place, building, vehicle, etc:
- The boys came into the hall.
- She ran into the house.
- He got into a bus/a train/a plane/a car.
- The athletes marched into the stadium.
Onto is used to indicate movement into a position on an object or surface:
- He climbed onto the roof.
- The cat jumped onto the table.
- A tree fell onto a car.
- He stepped out of the train onto the platform.
Through is used to indicate movement from one end of an opening, or a passage to the other. The place is seen as a volume.
- The train passed through a tunnel.
- The water flows through this pipe.
- They were riding through a forest.
- The ball went flying through the window.
(vi). Up and Down:
Up is used to indicate movement to a higher position and down to a lower position.
- We climbed up the hill.
- The girl ran up the stairs.
- I set off up the road.
- She was walking down the street.
- She fell down the stairs.
- The stone rolled down the hill.
(vii). On/In/By (Travel):
We may use on, in or by while using a public or private vehicle. On is used when the vehicle is seen as a surface, in is used when it is seen as a volume. By is used to indicate the means of travel.
- We travelled on the horseback/foot/a cycle/a bus/a plane.
- They travelled by bus/car/train/cycle/sea/plane/air.
- We travelled in a bus/a car/a train/a ship/a plane.
7. Between and Among:
Between is used with two persons or things. Among is used with more than two people or things:
- Between you and me, she is very stupid.
- She divided the apples between the two children.
- C comes between B and D.
- Samesh sat between Mahesh and Ramesh.
- He lives in a house among the trees.
- She divided the money among her four sons.
- Satish works among the poor.
But if each individual person is mentioned, between is used even if there are more than two:
- The money was divided up between Mohan, Sohan and Rohan.
If the people are mentioned as a single group, among is used:
- I shared out the food among the family.
- The girl quickly disappeared among the crowd.
8. By and Beside:
By means close to someone or something. Beside means by the side of someone or something. Both imply nearness:
- She was sitting by the door.
- There is a glass just by your elbow.
- The telephone is by the window.
- She was sitting beside her mother.
- He always kept a dictionary beside him. Who is standing beside Kumar?