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Parts of Speech

Prepositions: Good Things Come in Small Packages

Prepositions are the mighty mites of grammar and writing, small but powerful little puppies. Prepositions are words that link a noun or a pronoun to another word in the sentence.

Use this list to help you recognize some of the most common prepositions:

  • about
  • between
  • above
  • beyond
  • across
  • but
  • after
  • by
  • against
  • despite
  • along
  • down
  • amid
  • during
  • around
  • except
  • as
  • for
  • at
  • from
  • before
  • in
  • behind
  • inside
  • below
  • into
  • beneath
  • like
  • beside
  • near
  • of
  • since
  • off
  • through
  • on
  • toward
  • onto
  • under
  • opposite
  • underneath
  • out
  • until
  • outside
  • upon
  • over
  • with
  • past
  • within
You Could Look It Up

Prepositions are words that link a noun or a pronoun to another word in the sentence.

A noun always follows a preposition. A prepositional phrase is a preposition and its object. A prepositional phrase can be two or three words long, as these examples show:

However, prepositional phrases can be much longer, depending on the length of the preposition and number of words that describe the object of the preposition. Here are two super-size prepositional phrases:

Joined at the Hip

Circle the preposition or prepositions in each sentence. Then write the noun or noun phrase that follows it. (Hint: Look for the noun markers a, an, and the.)

  1. You are slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter.
  2. A pat on the back is only a few centimeters from a kick in the butt.
  3. He wants the magic fingers vibrating bed regardless of the cost.
  4. Of course he will help himself to the biggest portion; he's a piggy.
  5. If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done.
Answers 
Preposition(s) Noun(s)
of, through peanut butter, turtles
on, from, in the back, a kick, the butt
of cost
to the biggest portion
for the last minute

A Note on Prepositions for Non-Native Speakers

Using prepositions correctly presents special problems for people whose first language is not English. That's because so many prepositional phrases are idiomatic: They have evolved through use and do not necessarily make logical sense. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Use in before seasons of the year. Also use in with months and years not followed by specific dates.
    • in the summer
    • in January
    • in 2003
  2. Use on before days of the week, holidays, and months, if the date follows.
    • on Wednesday
    • on Thanksgiving
    • on July 20
  3. Like is a preposition that means “similar to.” Therefore, it is followed by an object (usually a noun or pronoun).
    • like T'Aysha
    • like you
  4. Use the preposition of to show possession.
    • The preposition of is often used to show possession instead of the possessive form of a pronoun.
    • I hear a puppy's bark.
    • Or:
    • I hear the bark of a puppy.
    • Never use the preposition of with proper nouns.
    • Incorrect: I wore the dress of Nina.
    • Correct: I wore Nina's dress.
    Following is a list of idiomatic prepositional phrases and examples. Always use these prepositional phrases as units; don't substitute other prepositions.
Prepositional Phrases Examples
acquainted with Nico is acquainted with my cousin Raul.
addicted to I am addicted to coffee.
agree on (a plan) They finally agreed on a plan.
agree to (someone else's proposal) Did Betty agree to their demands?
angry at or about (a thing) The commuters are angry about the fare hike.
angry with (a person) They are angry with the mayor.
apply for (a job) Apply for a job.
approve of Did she approve of the vacation plan?
consist of The casserole consists of squirrel and noodles.
contrast with The red shirt contrasts with the pink pants.
convenient for Is Monday convenient for you?
deal with How do you deal with that awful child?
depend on Everything depends on the bus schedule.
differ from (something) The airplane differs from the train.
differ with (a person) I differ with your argument.
displeased with Nina is displeased with the plan.
fond of We are all fond of Mrs. Marco.
grateful for (something) The child was grateful for a snow day.
grateful to (someone) We are grateful to the doctor.
identical with This cake is identical with hers.
interested in Chris is interested in martial arts.
interfere with Homework can interfere with your social life.
object to We object to the income tax hike.
protect against An umbrella protects against rain.
reason with You can't reason with a two-year-old.
responsible for I am responsible for bringing the salad.
shocked at We are shocked at your hair color!
similar to It is similar to a rainbow.
specialize in The hairdresser must specialize in humor.
take advantage of They surely take advantage of kids!
worry about I worry about you.
book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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