TOEIC | Grammar: Prepositions Previous   Up   Next   

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.

Learning Hint:

To use prepositions accurately, memorize the most common prepositions and how they are used to describe the relationship between two things.

Prepositional Phrases

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 man runs on the sidewalk.

The man runs at night.

The man runs on a trail by the water.

The man runs instead of walking.

The man runs before eating breakfast.

The man is running to catch a bus.

The man runs past the library every day.

The man runs with his large dog.

The man runs along the side of the road.

The man runs like a professional athlete.

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:


They have been gone since last week.


Charles is going on vacation for three weeks.


We must finish this project by Friday.


We must finish this project within a week.


The resort is open from fall until spring.


The conference runs from Monday to Friday.


I read during my lunch break.


The prepositions in, at, and on are used with different kinds of places:


Used before large places (name of a country, state, province, county or city) and small places (a room, building, park, car, boat).

We stopped in the park.


Used with specific addresses.

Can also be used with some small places: class, school, the library, home, work and the office.

We live at 441 Main Street.


Used before middle-sized places: a ship, train, plane, and the name of a street, road, coast, or river.

We took the boat on the river.

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.


The book is on a shelf above the desk.

The painting hangs over the desk.

The disk is underneath the file folder.

The computer is kept under the desk.

Cargo is kept below the main deck.

We ate lunch beneath the trees.

To show the location of something in relation to something else, use the following prepositions:

He lives near a school.

The hospital is by the library.

She parked her car next to mine.

His folder is among the others.

The van parked between a truck and a car.



Some words that show a location do not use any preposition: home, upstairs, downstairs, downtown, uptown, inside (noun), outside (noun).

Incorrect: He went on home.

Incorrect: They went up upstairs.

Correct: He went home.

Correct: They went upstairs.


Incorrect: The kids are playing at outside.


Correct: The kids are playing outside.


The following prepositions show movement toward something:


Used to show movement towards something

He ran to school.


Used to show movement towards a surface

He put his cup onto the table.


used to show movement towards the interior of a volume

He jumped into the pool.

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.


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.


Every morning she goes to work.

He washed his car to get rid of the mud.

Unnecessary Prepositions

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.


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.

TOEIC | Grammar: Prepositions Previous   Up   Next   

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