Prepositions are used to connect a pronoun, noun, numeral, or gerund with other words. In English sentences, prepositions play an exceptional role, helping words to denote the corresponding connection in interaction with each other.
In modern English, the endings of cases are almost absent. Therefore, prepositions here are one of the main means of expressing the connection of a pronoun or noun with other words.
Prepositions play an important role in word formation and are part of a large number of different phrases and expressions: at last, at first, at home, at night, in vain, on foot, forever, by the way, etc.
Prepositions express various meanings – spatial, temporal, causal, etc. In other languages, they are expressed not only by prepositions but also by case endings; in English, these meanings are expressed only by prepositions because nouns in the general case with which they are combined do not have special endings. Consider the following examples:
- He lives in London;
- He went to sea last week;
- The ball is under the table;
- I do not agree with this.
The Difference Between Preposition, Adverb, and Postpositive
To distinguish between a preposition, an adverb, and a postpositive, several important aspects should be considered.
First of all, it should be mentioned that many simple prepositions (in, by, over, after, etc.), a number of derivatives (behind, before, below), and complex prepositions (besides, within, without) coincide with the corresponding adverbs, and prepositions by, in, off, on, over, up are homonymous to postpositives. And they are often similar even in meaning. This similarity of homonymous groups ‘preposition – adverb – postpositive’ both in form and meaning is due to their common origin from adverbs. However, in a phrase or sentence, prepositions, adverbs, and postpositives perform different functions, according to which they are distributed.
The adverb, in particular, in contrast to the preposition, having an independent meaning, serves as a member of the sentence. For example, We haven’t seen each other since yesterday. Since an adverb cannot convey the relation of another part of a sentence to a noun or pronoun, it cannot be followed by a noun or its equivalent, as we observe when using a preposition. This is the most characteristic feature by which we recognize in the sentence adverb and preposition.
The syntactic function of the propositive, on the contrary, is to express the relationship between the members of the sentence, forming a phrase of two members, one of which is the main and the other – the dependent. The main member can be a noun, pronoun, numeral, verb, adverb, adjective, substantivized adjective, or verb adjective. A dependent member can be a noun or that part of speech that is able to perform the syntactic function inherent in the noun, as well as an adverb, a group of words that form a predicative inversion with impersonal verb forms, or a subordinate clause. Here is an example: The air around us and above us is clear. Here after the preposition above, there is the pronoun us.
The preposition and the postpositive are similar in that they cannot perform the functions of a member of a sentence. The difference between them is in their function and the nature of their connection with other words. The postpositive participates in the formation of a complex verb, has an independent accent, and is therefore directly related only to this verb. This connection with the verb does not depend on where the postpositive is – directly after the verb or after the subordinate verb of the subordinate clause. Consider an example: They have drawn up a new outline.
Unlike the postpositive, the preposition is related to those members of the sentence whose relation it expresses, and without having an independent emphasis, it is internationally adjacent to the noun or pronoun that follows it. Here is an example: It largely depends on you. Here the connection between the verb depends and the pronoun you is made using the preposition on.
In addition, if there are several homogeneous objects in the sentence, the preposition can stand in front of each of them, which is not typical of the postpositive.
The Place of the Preposition in The Sentence
Consider the place occupied by the preposition in the sentence:
- As a rule, the preposition is placed before the noun or pronoun to which it belongs or before the adjective or other definition that precedes the noun: I am looking at her;
- But sometimes for greater melodiousness, to emphasize thought, as well as in poetry, the preposition is placed after the word to which it refers: She has traveled the whole world over;
- Prepositions are also used at the end of interrogative sentences that begin with the interrogative words what, who, where: Who are looking at?;
- The place of the preposition changes when the conjunction of definite sentences with the main (without omitting the relative pronoun indefinite sentences): The woman you are talking about has gone home;
- In addition to nouns and pronouns, prepositions are also used with verbs, and in many cases, the meaning of the verb depends on the preposition that is placed after it. For example, the verb look with different prepositions at, after has different meanings: look at – to look at someone, something; look after – to watch someone, something.
We should also mention the cases of omission of the preposition in the sentence. Prepositions are sometimes omitted to preserve conciseness and reinforce thought: He is busy (at) reading.
The Meaning and Use of Prepositions
Here is a list of the most common prepositions:
- From … to/ until;
- In front of;
- Next to;
- Opposite under/ underneath;
- Out of;
Peculiarities of The Use of Prepositions of Time
Prepositions of time: at, on, in, since, until/till, by, from … to/until, before, after.
At is used in the following cases:
- to indicate the time: The film starts at 9 o’clock;
- with the names of holidays: We have a holiday at Christmas;
- with the word weekend: Will I see you at the weekend?;
- to mark a certain moment: I’m reading a book at the moment;
- with the words that mean eating: Will I see you at lunchtime?;
- with nouns denoting a certain period of the day, except afternoon and evening: I went to bed at dawn;
- in constant phrases: at first, at last, at any time, at once, at times, at the age of, etc.
On is used:
- with the names of the days of the week: We always visit grandparents on Saturday.
- with dates: George was born on November 11;
- with the word day or nouns that mean a certain period of the day, if they are preceded by the names of holidays or names of days of the week: She was born on St. Valentine’s day.
In is used:
- with the names of the months: It is always cold in February;
- with the years: My brother was born in 1999;
- with centuries: We live in the twenty-first century;
- with the names of the seasons: We always rest at sea in summer;
- to indicate certain periods of time: Hats came into vogue in the 60s of last century;
- with nouns denoting a certain period of the day and used with the specified article: I go to school in the afternoon;
- in the sense of ‘after some time in the future’: George will be here in five minutes;
- in the phrase in the middle with nouns denoting a certain period of the day: Today he woke up in the middle of the night and could not sleep anymore;
- in the phrases in the past, in the future: In the past, people were more militant.
- Since means “from some time in the past”: I haven’t seen my sister since last Tuesday.
- Till (until) is used to indicate the time limited by a certain segment: She waited until Joseph left.
- For indicates the time, its duration: I have been waiting for him for an hour.
- By indicates the end time of the action, event: She completed all tasks by 8 o’clock.
- From … to/until indicate a certain period of time: The shops are usually open from 8.00 am to 9.00 pm.
- Before indicates the time and means that one action took place before another: I knew Jessica before I came to the UK.
- After means that one action occurred later than another: I left the country after the war.
Specificity of the Use of Prepositions of Place
Prepositions of the place include the following: at, on, in, over, between, among, beside, in front of, behind, next to, near, below, above, opposite under / underneath.
- At indicates the location: There are girls at the door.
- On indicates the location, the point of contact: There is a fork on the table.
- In indicates the place, space, distance: The pencils are in a box.
- In front of indicates that the object is in front of someone or something: His car is in front of the barbershop.
- Behind indicates that the object is behind something: There is a garden behind the cottage.
- Next to / beside: She sat beside the bed.
- Near: The family lives near the river.
- Below indicates a location below something: Children, do not write below the line.
- Above points to placement above something: The village is located 9,000 meters above the sea.
- Opposite indicates the placement of one object opposite another: The bakery is located opposite the pharmacy.
- Under/underneath indicates the placement of one subject below another: The toy is under the desk.
- Over indicates the placement of one object over another: There is a nice picture over the bed.
- Between indicates the location between two people or objects: Lucy is sitting between Jessica and Jack.
- Among indicates the placement of someone or something alone among many: The tutor stood among the students.
General Rules of the Use of Prepositions of Direction
Prepositions of direction: to, towards, from, into, out of, onto/on, off, up, down, round / around, through, along, under, by, on, in, at, over, across.
- To indicate the direction of movement to the place of arrival: Come to the museum at six.
- Toward (s) indicates movement in a certain direction: She moved towards the door.
- From indicates the place of departure, origin: She returned from the north.
- Round/around: The cat runs around the tree.
- Into indicates inward movement: She jumped into the river.
- Out of indicates movement from the middle and answers the question “From where?»: After the labor training lesson, the students ran out of the classroom.
- Onto or on indicates the direction of movement: Sophie got on the train.
- Off has the opposite meaning to onto and on: The dog jumped off the chair.
- Up indicates the direction of upward movement: Oliver runs up the stairs.
- Down indicates the direction of downward movement: She went down the hill.
- Across indicates movement from one side of a surface to another: She swam across the river.
- Over indicates movement over something: Martin climbed over the fence.
- Through indicates movement through something: Children marched through the gate.
- Along indicates movement along with something: The boys went along the street.
- Under indicates movement under something: The ship sailed under the bridge.
The material represented in this article will definitely help you remember the most common prepositions and the peculiarities of their use in a sentence. Just study it carefully.