Prepositions are small words that we use in our sentences. Although small, these words have a big impact on the sentence as a whole. In fact, if a sentence is long and smooth but it uses the wrong Preposition, it can still sound low-level.
The topic of Prepositions is a very tricky one in English. It may look simple, but it’s one of the most difficult lessons for learners.
For example, when we say:
They are sitting at the table.
|images courtesy of stock.xchng|
The word “at” is the Preposition.
We should be careful not to use the wrong Preposition.
They are sitting on the table.
The image above is the exact meaning of the second sentence. So if you use the wrong Preposition, the strange usage will be easy to notice.
Prepositions are very important in English.
In fact, the Prepositions “of,” “to” and “in” are among the most commonly used words in the English language.
What Exactly is a Preposition?
The name “Preposition” comes from a combination of two words:
pre + position
“Pre” means “before.”
This is because we add Prepositions before a Noun, Pronoun, or Gerund.
In terms of meaning, Prepositions can express time, place, direction, method, etc.
Learners begin to learn the short Prepositions (fewer than 6 letters), but there are also other kinds of Prepositions which are longer (composed of many words).
For a comprehensive list of Prepositions, just read:
Today we’re going to study the basics of Prepositions. We can’t study the whole of this topic because it's too wide.
Like I said, Prepositions talk about time, place, direction, method etc. Let’s focus on its 2 most common uses: (1) time and (2) place.
Also, let’s study the 3 most common Prepositions: “in,” “at,” and “on.”
What’s the difference between these three?
Prepositions of Time
Prepositions of Place
At vs. In
I know what you’re thinking. If both “at” and “in” can be used with words for buildings, how do we know which one to use?
Indeed this is a very confusing point for learners.
The truth is, both of these expressions are possible and correct:
at the restaurant – or – in the restaurant
at the supermarket – or – in the supermarket
at the mall – or – in the mall
But “at” is often used when you are talking about the venue where an event takes place.
We watched a concert at the park.
The meeting was held at the restaurant.
On the other hand, “in” is used when we are thinking about the actual building itself.
It was very cold in the theater.
It was raining outside so we waited in the restaurant.
There are no fixed and definite rules when it comes to learning Prepositions. I can only teach you the general tendencies and there will always be exceptions* to the general rules.
*exceptions = special cases
The important thing to remember is, learn not only the rules but also the exceptions.
Lastly, thinking about the logic of the Preposition rules too much is a bad thing. Memorizing correct examples and usage is a better and faster way.
Hope You Learned Something!