Prepositions are “governing words” or words that come before a noun or a pronoun. They express a relationship to another element in the sentence. Look at some of the common usages.
“I was waiting in the backyard to enter the house after the police went away.” “What did you break the law for?”
Words "in", "after" and "for" are prepositions in the above examples.
after above at before behind between beside besides despite for in of on
… and so on. There are more than 100 in the English language. Of, for, in, to, at and on are some of the most commonly used.
We'll rely again on YouTube and the excellent SchoolHouse Rock series for these simple but often misused words.
How to Recognize them: There is one rule of thumb that you can use to identify these words in a sentence. This rule has no exceptions and always applies, so it is like your permanent landmark when dealing with difficulties in English.
A preposition is always followed by a noun or a pronoun.
Simple enough? Let’s explore.
One will never be followed by a verb, but always by a noun of any type, like:
common noun (person, place or thing) proper noun (a name) pronoun gerund (verb + “ing”)
If you want a verb to follow one, using it in gerund form (verb in a noun form) is the only way.
Example of gerund: drinking = drink (verb) + “ing”
Short exercise: Look at the following sentences:
I don’t like to do homework. They will need to go early tomorrow. Rebecca used to visit Grandma daily.
The above sentences defy our one rule above, don’t they? The first sentence has the preposition “to” followed by the verb “do”. Similarly, the second one has the word “to” followed by the verb “go” and finally the third one has it followed by the verb “visit”.
Yet, these sound perfectly well-written in English. How is that possible?
Answer: The word “to” in the above sentences is not a prepositional form. It is a part of another grammatical concept known as an “Infinitive” in English. All phrases like “to do”, “to go”, “to visit”, “to ask”, “to wander”, etc. form infinitives.
Prepositions can be Classified in the 2 types listed below:
Of Place Of Time (at, in, on)
1. Of Place: Used to describe a place in a sentence. We use at for a point in space, in for mentioning an enclosed place and on for mentioning the top or surface of something.
I went to the store at the road’s corner. She is in the room. I met her on the way.
2. Of Time: Used to describe a time period in a sentence. We use at for an exact time, in for mentioning months, years, decades and long spans of time and on for days and dates.
I went to the store at 10 am. It will rain in July. My Birthday is on Wednesday.
In, on and at are not used when using words like last, every, next, etc. Omit their use as shown below.
I went sky-diving last year. The Smiths will go for a world tour this June. We visit the grandparents every Christmas.