Top 10 Prepositions in English

The Most Common Prepositions in English

Prepositions are usually short words, but don't be fooled. They are important! Prepositions link words in sentences to show how the words relate to each other. For example:
  • The mouse was in the cupboard.
  • (Here, the preposition "in" shows the relationship between "the mouse" and "the cupboard." This preposition relates to position.)
  • The meeting is on Saturday.
  • (In this example, the preposition "on" shows the relationship between "the meeting" and "Saturday." This preposition relates to time.)
Lots of prepositions show position and time relationships between words. The three most common ones are "in," "on," and "at." Somewhat oddly, these three prepositions can relate to position or time. For example:

Prepositions of Place

  • There is a seal in the water.
  • Jack is on the bus.
  • I will meet you at the bus stop.
Read more about about "at," "in," and "on" as prepositions of place.

Prepositions of Time

  • Janet's party is in July.
  • The shop is closed on Tuesday.
  • The game starts at 4 o'clock.
Read more about about "at," "in," and "on" as prepositions of time.

Table of Contents

  • The Top 10 Prepositions with Examples
  • Foreign Translations of the Prepositions
  • Why These Prepositions Are Important
  • Key Point
  • Test Time!
the top 10 prepositions in English

The Top 10 Prepositions with Examples

There are more than 130 prepositions in English, but this lesson focuses on the top 10 to help with prioritizing vocabulary learning. The top 10 prepositions in English are:
  • in, on, at, for, with, by, to, from, into, and about
These prepositions convey the following relationships:

(1) in

"In" indicates a location (particularly inside a container or a large space) or a time (e.g., a month, a season).

  • The spoon is in the jar. (container)
  • The cows are in the field. (large space)
  • The birds fly south in winter. (season)

(2) on

"On" indicates a location (particularly a surface or public transport) or a time (e.g., a day).

  • Your dinner is on the table. (surface)
  • Jack is on the train. (public transport)
  • We will reach the summit on Sunday. (day)

(3) at

"At" indicates a specific place or a specific time.

  • I will meet you at the restaurant. (specific place)
  • The race starts at 12 o'clock. (specific time)
  • The spell ends at midnight. (specific time)

(4) for

"For" indicates purpose, beneficiary, or duration.

  • It is a cleaner for removing oil. (purpose)
  • He bought a gift for his sister. (beneficiary)
  • Sarah went on holiday for 5 days. (duration)

(5) with

"With" indicates means or method, accompaniment, or association.

  • I smashed the plate with a hammer. (means or method)
  • Sarah flew to American with Alice. (accompaniment)
  • She is with the United Nations. (association)

(6) by

"By" indicates means or method, or near a location.

  • Toby travels to work by bus. (means or method)
  • The gold is buried by the palm near. (near a location)

(7) to

"To" indicates destination or recipient.

  • Anne is going to the beach. (destination)
  • I have sent the children to bed. (destination)
  • Give the letter to John. (recipient)

(8) from

"From" indicates origin or source.

  • I received a letter from my friend. (origin)
  • Diego is from Spain. (origin)
  • I heard the truth from Alice. (origin)

(9) into

"Into" indicates movement towards the inside.

  • Mark walked into the room. (movement towards the inside)
  • The children jumped into the pile of leaves. (movement towards the inside)
  • The novel delves deep dive into the complexities of human emotions. (movement towards the inside)

(10) about

"About" indicates a topic or subject.

  • We were talking about our dogs. (topic)
  • Please tell me about project. (topic)
  • The documentary provides an insight about the impact of climate change on marine life. (topic)

Foreign Translations of the Prepositions

Here are the translations of the top 10 prepositions in German, Spanish, French, Russian, and Arabic. This section is included to help explain the meaning of each preposition to non-English students.
English German Spanish French Russian Arabic
in in en dans в (v) في (fi)
on auf en sur на (na) على (‘alā)
at bei en à у (u) في (fi)
for für para pour для (dlya) لـ (li)
with mit con avec с (s) مع (ma‘a)
by bei por par к (k) بواسطة (biwasitat)
to zu a à к (k) إلى (ilā)
from von de de из (iz) من (min)
into in en dans в (v) إلى (ilā)
about über sobre sur о (o) عن (‘an)
The prepositions in this lesson are common in everyday conversation. They are key elements that connect nouns, pronouns, and phrases to other words in a sentence. They are essential for clarifying fundamental relationships like time, place, purpose, and direction.

There are about 130 prepositions used in English, but these 10 cover most scenarios. Armed with these prepositions, students will be able to express most relationships, greatly enhancing the utility of the vocabulary they have learned so far.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.