What are prepositions?
 
The following are all examples of prepositions: in, on, at, around, above, near, underneath, alongside, of, and for.

A preposition sits before a noun (or a pronoun) to show the noun's relationship to another word in the sentence. (If that explanation is too complicated, it might help you to think of a preposition as a word which describes anywhere a mouse could go.)
 

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Prepositions

A preposition is a word which precedes a noun (or a pronoun) to show the noun's (or the pronoun's) relationship to another word in the sentence. (The word preposition comes from the idea of being positioned before. It is not true to say that a preposition always precedes a noun or a pronoun, but it does most of the time.)

The following are all prepositions:

above, about, across, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, since, to, toward, through, under, until, up, upon, with and within.

 
PREPOSITION? DOES IT DESCRIBE WHERE A MOUSE COULD BE?

It might not be the world's most grammatically sound explanation, but some people like to think of a preposition as anywhere a mouse could go.



 

Role of a Preposition

Prepositions are important when constructing sentences. A preposition sits before a noun to show the noun's relationship to another word in the sentence. 

Examples:

  • It is a container for butter.
  • (The preposition for shows the relationship between butter and container.)
  • The eagle soared above the clouds.
  • (The preposition above shows the relationship between clouds and soared.)

Pitfalls with Prepositions

For native English speakers, grammatical errors involving prepositions are rare. The most common errors involving prepositions are shown on the right. That said, there are several points of which to be aware:

 
Click on the prepositions:



 
 

 




 
 
EXCEPT AND ACCEPT 

Some writers confuse the words except and accept. The word except is a preposition. It has a meaning similar to not including.

  • I know everybody except Tony.
  • (The preposition except shows the relationship between Tony and everybody.)
The word accept, on the other hand, is a verb. For example:

  • I accept.
  • She will accept the decision.
See the lesson Accept and Except.

PAST AND PASSED

The word past can be used as a preposition. However, the word passed cannot. The word passed is a verb that relates to the action of passing. For example:

  • Jennifer passed the exam.
  • She passed the salt.
The word past can be used as:

A preposition:
  • It went past the post.
An adjective:
  • He believes he was a prince in a past life.
A noun:
  • It's all in the past.
Whether preposition, adjective or noun, the word past usually relates to either time or distance.

See the lesson Past and Passed.

INTO, ONTO AND UP TO

The word into is a preposition. It is written as one word.

  • She turned everything she touched into gold.
However, on occasion, the words in and to appear next to each other in a sentence, and writers are unsure whether to use into or in to. This happens when the verb in the sentence includes the word in (e.g., hand in, step in, turn in).

See the lesson Into, Onto and Up To.
 

See also:

What are adjectives?
What are adverbs?
What are conjunctions?
What are interjections?
What are nouns?
What are pronouns?
What are verbs?
Ending a sentence in a preposition
The object of a preposition
Verbs with prepositions - succinct writing
More than I or more than me?