TOEIC Grammar Guide – Prepositions
Prepositions are used to show a connection between two words in a sentence. There are many different prepositions in English which makes it difficult to choose the right preposition to use in a sentence.
For example, there are more than 30 prepositions that may be used to describe the relationship between a desk and something else. Here are some examples:
I am sitting at the desk.
Please put the file on the desk.
The chair is behind the desk.
These are the most common prepositions: about, above, according to, across, after, afterward, against, along, along with, among, around, as, at, because of, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, concerning, despite, down, downward, during, except, except for, for, from, in, inside, instead of, into, like, near, next to, of, off, on, onto, out, outside, over, past, regarding, round, since, through, throughout, to toward, under, underneath, unlike, until, up, upon, with, within, without.
To use prepositions accurately, memorize the most common prepositions and how they are used to describe the relationship between two things.
Prepositions always link a noun, a pronoun, or a word acting as a noun to another word in the sentence. The noun type normally comes after the preposition and is called the object of the preposition. The preposition plus its object and any other words describing the object is called a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases act as adjectives or adverbs, and add details to a sentence. They can tell the location of something, or when, how, and where something happens.
Basic sentence: The man runs.
The words in bold are prepositions. The underlined words are the object of the preposition. Together they are a prepositional phrase. Each one adds details like how or where or when the man runs.
Prepositional phrases can be at the start, middle, or the end of a sentence:
According to the newspaper, the companys profits increased last month.
The accounting job at the company was a great learning experience.
Note: Prepositional phrases can never be a sentence. They do not have a subject or main verb.
Prepositions Linked to Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs
Some prepositions are always used with certain nouns, adjectives and verbs. The preposition and other word work together as a single prepositional form.
Noun Examples: belief in, concern for, hope for, love of, need for, reason for, understanding of.
Adjective Examples: aware of, angry at, interested in, made of, married to, sorry for, sure of.
Verb Examples: work for, look up, pay for, trust in, think about, belong to, give up, study for, talk about.
Specific Usage of Prepositions
Some prepositions are always used with certain times or place or direction.
On is used with days:
He will meet with her on Thursday.
At is used with noon, night, midnight, and with the time of day:
We eat lunch at noon.
We finish work at 6pm.
In is used with other parts of the day, with months, years, or seasons:
They walk in the afternoon.
His vacation is in October.
The company started in 1999.
Leaves change color in fall.
To show longer periods of time, the prepositions most commonly used are:
The prepositions in, at, and on are used with different kinds of places:
To show something is higher than something else, use above or over. To show something is lower than a place, use under, underneath, below, or beneath.
To show the location of something in relation to something else, use the following prepositions:
Some words that show a location do not use any preposition: home, upstairs, downstairs, downtown, uptown, inside (noun), outside (noun).
The following prepositions show movement toward something:
It would also be correct to say, He jumped in the pool. In and on can be used with many verbs showing motion. In / into and on / onto can both be used to show that a motion is finished. However, only in and on can show the location of the subject as a result of an action (verb):
Correct: He fell on the floor. He fell onto the floor.
Correct: He is on the floor.
Incorrect: He is onto the floor.
Correct: The book is on the table.
Incorrect: The book is onto the table.
The preposition to also shows direction when used with verbs of motion: move, go, transfer, walk, run, swim, ride, drive, fly, or travel. The preposition toward can be used also with these verbs except transfer. To is used to show a specific location. Toward is used to only show a general location.Examples
Drive to the house.
Drive toward the house.
Correct: He will transfer to another bus.
Incorrect: He will transfer toward another bus.
(Transfer means to go from one place to another, specific, place so toward cannot be used.)
Another use of to is to show a goal that will be reached. For a physical place, the form is to plus a noun: to work, to school, to the library. For a purpose or reason, the form is to plus the infinitive of a verb: to go, to get, to reach.Examples
Every morning she goes to work.
He washed his car to get rid of the mud.
Sometimes prepositions are used when they are not needed. They might be heard in conversation, but they are not grammatically correct. These are some examples: call up, off of, inside of, outside of, stir up, finish up, sit down, return back, help out, fall over, out of, escape from, jump up, open up, except for, later on. In each, the preposition in bold should NOT be used.Examples
Incorrect: She asked me to jump up and down.
Correct: She asked me to jump.
(Jump already means to go up into the air and come back down.)
Incorrect: Be careful not to fall over.
Correct: Be careful not to fall.
(Fall already means go from a higher to a lower level.)
Incorrect: She threw the book out of the window.
Correct: She threw the book out the window.