Prepositions are small words like in, on, at, from, since, over, by etc. If they are not carefully used, they may change the whole meaning of a sentence. Right use of prepositions is an indicator of the ability of a writer or speaker.
A preposition is a word used with a noun or pronoun to show its relationship with the other word of a sentence.
e.g.: 1. The man is under the tree.
2. She is in the room.
3. He is angry with me.
In sentence - 1 the underlined word 'under' is a preposition. Hence the word 'under' shows the relationship between the noun 'tree' and the noun 'man'. In sentence - 2, the preposition 'in' shows the relationship between the noun 'room' and the pronoun 'she'. In sentence - 3 the preposition 'with' shows the relationship between the pronoun 'me' and the adjective 'angry'.
* It is very common to commit mistakes in the use of prepositions. A slight difference may change the whole meaning. This will be clear from the following.
He laughed at me.
He laughed with me.
* To 'laugh at' and to 'laugh with' have two different meanings. Since it is difficult to lay down set rules for their use, one has to learn with expression separately.
Some Important Prepositions
In, At, On
* We use 'in' when we talk about a place as an area. We use 'at' when we talk about a place as a point.
e.g.: He lives in Hyderabad.
He is at home.
He is at HB colony.
He lives in a village.
* A big city can also be treated as a point when we talk of travel.
e.g.: He stopped at London on his way to Newyork.
* We use 'in' with the names of streets.
e.g.: This girls are playing in the street.
* We use 'on' when we talk of a place as a surface.
e.g.: The cat sat on the mat.
The picture is hanging on the wall.
* We use 'at' for group activities and shops/ work places.
e.g.: I met him at the party.
She is a professor at Cambridge University.
* We use 'in' for a period of time and 'at' for a point of time.
e.g.: I was born in 1962.
He came at night.
He comes here in the morning.
* We use 'on' for a specific day/ day of the week/ a special day/ a specific part of any such day.
e.g.: On Friday, on June 5th
On New Year's day
On Wednesday evening
'During' is used to express the continuity of an occurrence or persistence of a situation throughout the whole of a specified period.
e.g.: 1) During the war food was rationed.
2) We work during the day and sleep during the night.
* Among, between
We use 'between' to talk about two and 'among' to talk about more than two.
e.g.: 1) A quarrel arose between the two sisters.
2) Slavery exists among certain tribes.
For, from, since
We use 'since' to talk about a point in time. We use it in the Perfect Tense.
e.g.: 1) It has been raining since morning.
* We use 'for' to talk about a period of time.
e.g.: It has been raining for two hours.
* We use 'from' to denote a point of time in Present Past and Future.
e.g.: 1) He begins school from today.
2) He began learning Sanskrit from the age of five.
3) He will be attending the school regularly from tomorrow.
* We use 'in' when something is not in motion or for a state of rest.
e.g.: 1) He is in the room (Rest).
2) The pen is in his pocket (Rest).
Prepositions with Means of Transport
* We use 'by' when we talk about means of transport.
e.g.: by bicycle, by car/ taxi/ bus/ train
by boat/ ship/ plane, by air/ sea/ land.
He travelled by train.
* But when we talk about a specific means of transport we do not use 'by'.
e.g.: 1) He came to the field on my bike.
2) I travelled in her car.
3) She came in a taxi.
* We say 'on' foot.
e.g.: She goes to school on foot.
Prepositions after particular words and expressions: The following is a list of expressions which often cause problems.
Ability at (Not in)
e.g.: She shows great ability at Mathematics.
Accuse of (Not for)
e.g.: 1) He accused me of cheating.
2) The prisoner was accused of murder.
Afraid of (Not from)
e.g.: My daughter is afraid of lizards.
* When 'afraid' is followed by an infinitive (to), no preposition is used.
e.g.: The old man was afraid to cross the road.
Arrive at (Not to)
e.g.: 1) We arrived at the hotel in time for dinner.
* We use arrive in before a country/ city.
e.g.: You'll arrive in London at two in the morning.
* When arrive is followed by an adverb such as here, there, somewhere, anywhere no preposition is used.
Bad at (not in)/ good at (not in)/ clever at
e.g.: 1) I'm bad at Mathematics.
2) I'm not very good at writing essays.
3) I'm not very clever at painting.
People die of a disease or illness, but from doing something.
e.g.: 1) Many people have died of Swine Flu.
2) He died from over eating.
Example of (not for)
e.g.: This house is a fine example of medieval period.
e.g.: 1) Flour is made from wheat (not of).
2) Her dress was made of silk (not from).
When one substance is changed into another, so that, a new substance is produced, we use 'from', but when the original material is not changed, but is merely formed into some object, then we use 'of'.
Married to (not with)
When the word married is used as an adjective the preposition 'to' is used.
e.g.: He is married to my sister.
* When 'married' is used as a verb, no preposition is required to be used.
e.g.: He married my sister.
Prefer to (not than)
e.g.: I prefer a humourous play to a serious one.
Write in (not with)
e.g.: 1) The script was written in pencil.
2) The note was written in ink.
3) Write the exercise in ink.
* When 'written' refer to the appearance of the words or the letters on the paper, then 'in' is used.
Expressions without prepositions
This is a list of important expressions in which we do not use preposition or can leave them out.
* We do not use prepositions after 'discuss'.
e.g.: I discussed the matter with him.
* We do not use any preposition before today, tomorrow, yesterday.
e.g.: He came yesterday (not on yesterday).
* We do not use 'to' before home.
e.g.: I'm going home (not to home).
Some examples which do not take a preposition:
* She has passed the test (not passed in).
* He was a good boy and obeyed his parents all the time (not obeyed to).
* Will he accompany you? (not accompany with).
* The soldier saluted the officer (not saluted to).
* I shall meet you (not meet with).