Prepositions – Definition, Types, and Examples

Prepositions in English Grammar

For English learners, prepositions can be a tricky yet essential component to master. These small words hold great significance, giving clarity and direction to our sentences. In this article, we’ll delve deep into understanding prepositions, their types, and their uses, with examples to make the learning journey smoother.

Definition of a Preposition

At its core, a preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other words in a sentence. It often indicates location, direction, time, or manner.


  • The cat is on the table. (Here, “on” shows the location of the cat in relation to the table.)

Types of Prepositions

Prepositions of Time:

These give information about when something happens.

  • At night
  • On Tuesday
  • In April

Prepositions of Place:

These indicate where something is located or positioned.

  • The book is under the chair.
  • She lives in New York.

Prepositions of Direction:

These show movement from one place to another.

  • He walked to the store.
  • She ran towards the park.

Prepositions of Manner:

These describe how something is done.

  • He wrote the letter with a pen.
  • She reacted in surprise.

Prepositions of Cause and Effect:

These indicate a reason or purpose.

  • He is famous for his artwork.
  • She shivered from the cold.
See also  Adverbs – Definition, Types, and Examples

Usage of Prepositions

With Time:

Prepositions help to specify when an event happens.

  • I have a meeting at 3 pm.
  • They will visit us in December.

With Place:

They pinpoint the location or position of an object or person.

  • The keys are inside the drawer.
  • He sat beside her.

With Direction:

Prepositions can depict movement.

  • The ball rolled down the hill.
  • She is heading towards the mall.

With Manner:

They can describe the method or way something is done.

  • The story was told in whispers.
  • He carried the box with care.

With Cause and Effect:

Prepositions show reasons or motivations.

  • They rejoiced at the news.
  • She was trembling from fear.

Commonly Confused Prepositions

Given their subtle nuances, prepositions can sometimes be puzzling. Here are a few commonly confused pairs:

  • In vs. On: We use “in” for enclosed spaces (in the room) and “on” for surfaces (on the table).
  • At vs. In: “At” is used for specific points or places (at the corner), while “in” denotes larger areas (in the city).
  • By vs. With: “By” suggests the doer of an action (a novel by her), and “with” indicates the instrument or means (write with a pen).

Prepositions, though small in size, play a pivotal role in adding clarity and precision to our sentences. They weave relationships between different parts of speech, helping to paint a clearer picture of what the speaker or writer wishes to convey. For those learning English as a second language, mastering prepositions can be a challenge, but with consistent practice and observation, it becomes easier to grasp their nuances and applications. The key is to keep practicing, reading, and listening to native speakers to get a good feel for how these important words are used in context.

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