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Prepositions of Time, Place, and Introducing Objects

Summary:

This resource provides guidelines for using prepositions in your writing.

Prepositions

Prepositions are words or short phrases that identify the spatial (in space), directional (the direction in which something is moving), or temporal (in time) relationship of one or more people or things to other people or things. Prepositions communicate abstract relationships as well as concrete ones. While all languages have prepositions, English has a particularly large number of them, with important differences of nuance between similar prepositions. This handout will give an overview of prepositions, along with a practice activity.

Prepositions for Time, Place, and Introducing Objects

On is used with days:

  • I will see you on Monday.
  • The week begins on Sunday.

At is used with noon, night, midnight, and with the time of day:

  • My plane leaves at noon.
  • The movie starts at 6 p.m.

In is used with other parts of the day, with months, with years, with seasons:

  • He likes to read in the afternoon.
  • The days are long in August.
  • The book was published in 1999.
  • The flowers will bloom in spring.

To express extended time, English uses the following prepositions: since, for, by, from-to, from-until, during, (with)in.

  • She has been gone since yesterday. (She left yesterday and has not returned.)
  • I'm going to Paris for two weeks. (I will spend two weeks there.)
  • The movie showed from August to October. (Beginning in August and ending in October.)
  • The decorations were up from spring until fall. (Beginning in spring and ending in fall.)
  • I watch TV during the evening. (For some period of time in the evening.)
  • We must finish the project within a year. (No longer than a year.)

To express notions of place, English uses the following prepositions: to talk about the point itself: in, to express something contained: inside, to talk about the surface: on, to talk about a general vicinity, at.

  • There is a wasp in the room.
  • Put the present inside the box.
  • I left your keys on the table.
  • She was waiting at the corner.

To express notions of an object being higher than a point, English uses the following prepositions: over, above.

  • He threw the ball over the roof.
  • Hang that picture above the couch.

To express notions of an object being lower than a point, English uses the following prepositions: under, underneath, beneath, below.

  • The rabbit burrowed under the ground.
  • The child hid underneath the blanket.
  • We relaxed in the shade beneath the branches.
  • The valley is below sea-level.

To express notions of an object being close to a point, English uses the following prepositions: near, by, next to, between, among, opposite.

  • She lives near the school.
  • There is an ice cream shop by the store.
  • An oak tree grows next to my house
  • The house is between Elm Street and Maple Street.
  • I found my pen lying among the books.
  • The bathroom is opposite that room.

English uses the following prepositions to introduce objects of the following verbs.

At: glance, laugh, look, rejoice, smile, stare

  • She took a quick glance at her reflection. (exception with mirror: She took a quick glance in the mirror.)
  • You didn't laugh at his joke.
  • I'm looking at the computer monitor.
  • We rejoiced at his safe rescue.
  • That pretty girl smiled at you.
  • Stop staring at me.

Of: approve, consist, smell

  • I don't approve of his speech.
  • My contribution to the article consists of many pages.
  • He came home smelling of alcohol.

Of (or about): dream, think

  • I dream of finishing college in four years.
  • Can you think of a number between one and ten?
  • I am thinking about this problem.

For: call, hope, look, wait, watch, wish

  • Did someone call for a taxi?
  • He hopes for a raise in salary next year.
  • I'm looking for my keys.
  • We'll wait for her here.
  • You go buy the tickets and I'll watch for the train.
  • If you wish for an "A" in this class, you must work hard.
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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.