Preposition – Definition and Common Uses of Prepositions
Continuing with our course on parts of speech, we will move to Prepositions today in this chapter. As briefly explained in this chapter “Parts of Speech - Explanations“, prepositions are words that make relations with other words in the sentences. Let’s read Prepositions in details. Here we go ….
First, let me be clear – prepositions are hard to explain completely. One thing you keep in mind that
A Preposition is a word or a part of speech which is placed before a noun, or a pronoun or a phrase to make a logical and physical relations with the rest of the words in a sentence such as subjects, objects or other words. It creates links amongst nouns, pronouns or any other phrases present in a sentence and completes the meaning of the words/phrases it relates to.
Too much confusing, hah? Let’s understand this in details and with examples.
Follow the sentences closely
- The bird is on the tree.
- The bird is in the tree.
- The bird is over the tree.
- The bird is beside the tree.
- The bird is flying into the tree.
- The bird is inside the tree.
- The bird is flying around the tree.
The above sentences with the words in bold and italics are prepositions. However, all the sentences look almost alike. But, there are differences amongst all of them. How to distinguish them? Who distinguish them? The answer is – Prepositions. Follow the words and you can understand it better.
The words – on, in, over, by, into, inside, around make a relations between the words/phrases “The bird” and “The tree“. How?
→ On the tree – touching the tree (upward);
→ In the tree – touching the tree (anywhere);
→ Over the tree – in the air; upward but not touching the tree.
→ Beside the tree – close to the tree, touching or not touching the tree
→ Into the tree – in the tree but in motion as if coming from a distance and settling in the tree
→ Inside the tree – enclosed by the tree.
→ Around the tree - all places outside the tree but close to the tree, noting going too far
Note1: All the explanations above are just generic and not specific in meaning at all. As already said, prepositions are hard to explain. Just to make things a bit simple for you in understanding, I put those elaborations which convey meanings of those prepositions roughly. (Don’t follow those prepositions as explained above. There are lots of other meanings attached to them. We’ll see them later)
The word or phrase which is introduced by the preposition is called the Object of the Preposition. In other words, the noun or pronoun used with a preposition is known as the Object of the Preposition. An example -
He is sitting at the computer
→ “AT” is a preposition here and ‘the computer‘ is the object of the preposition ‘AT‘.
Note2: A preposition can have two or more objects. E.g. – “He is good at maths and English“
Common Use of Prepositions
There are certain words or phrases which follow common prepositions before them and you have to follow them as exactly as outlined in the English grammar. If you use them otherwise, the sentence will either be incorrect or will have no meaning at all. Check out a few such examples below. Get them by heart and apply them as it is.
Follow the usages of preposition with regards to time. Make sure you use them as given below.
→ IN before ↔ year, month, season, era, particular time of the day.
- in 1981, in 2011, [not on 1981- this is incorrect]
- in June, in July, In August
- in Winter, In summer,
- in the night, in the morning, in the evening.
- in 19th century
→ ON before ↔ date, day
- on Sunday, on Monday [not in Sunday - always On Sunday]
- on 18th June, on 25th this month
→ AT ↔ when we indicate a time (in general)
- at 4 PM [You can't say 'in 4 pm' this is incorrect]
- at 3 o’ clock in the evening
→ BY ↔ when we need to accomplish a task within a particular time
- By this evening [e.g. Come back by this evening - (not after evening)]
- By this time [e.g. He must reached by this time - (it's 4 pm now and he must have reach by 4pm, not after 4 pm)]
- By 4 pm
→ IN/WITHIN ↔ when we indicate a non-particular time frame before which a task will be done
- in an hour [e.g. Come back in an hour - (in an hour or so)]
- within a day [e.g. I'll finish it within a day - (maybe I'll another day to finish it)]
- in a few minutes
- within a month
→ FROM – TO ↔ when we indicate two points of time, point to point
- from Monday to Wednesday
- from morning to evening
- from January to March
→ FOR ↔ when we indicate a time period (continuous process) but not specific time
- For 12 years [e.g living here for 12 years (continuously)(which 12 years?- so the period is not specific)]
- For a long time [e.g. playing for a long time (continuously)(long time is non particular here)]
- For a few days
→ SINCE ↔ when we indicate a time period but for a specific time [from past tense to present tense]
- Since yesterday [e.g. living since yesterday - (it started yesterday & still going on- yesterday is particular time)]
- Since 1981 [e.g. living since 1981 - (it started in 1981 and still going on - 1981 is particular time)]
- Since morning
Note3: If we have month, date, day, year together, we will follow ‘date’ first wherever it’s positioned. E.g.→
→ On 15th September, 2011 [not in 15th September, 2011]
→ On September 15
Note4: There are certain phrases with prepositions. They are also called Prepositional Phrases. With ‘time’ we have specific prepositional phrases. Have a look at some of them →
♦ in time → within a time frame [e.g. I'll be back in time, (in or around a time)]
♦ on time → on right time [e.g. I'll be back on time - exact time]
♦ to time → as per the schedule [e.g. the train is running to time - as per the schedule - no delay or ahead of time]
♦ at times → sometimes [not always] [e.g. I watch movies at times - sometimes, not always]
♦ by the clock/watch → time as per the clock shows time [e.g. what's the time by your watch now]
♦ on end → at a stretch, without stopping, continuously [e.g I can chatter on end- (continuously)]
We have covered Prepositions in most of the way in this chapter. We’ve also gone through certain specific and common (yet very necessary) uses of prepositions with respect to Time. For this chapter, I guess this is okay (else will end up with a huge page.. LOL ). We will continue with this chapter from our next chapter too, where we will see more uses of Prepositions and a few Prepositional phrases. Until then, happy learning and keep smiling