Prepositions are a closed class of words. They are generally quite short words that often relate to meanings of place and time.

The following are common prepositions:

  • about, above, across, after, at, before, below, by, down, during, excluding, for, from, in, into, near, of, off, on, onto, outside, through, to, towards, under, up, upon, with, within, without

This is not a complete list.

Some prepositions are made up of more than one word:

  • Each day, fresh straw is strewn on top of the ever-thickening pile. [W2B-027 #73]
  • This pressure is maintained by means of water towers and gravity. [W2D-012 #5]
  • I’ve actually done that in front of people. [S1A-013 #140]
  • What personally do you get out of the integrated dance? [S1A-001 #27]

Note how the relationship is expressed by the words together. These are sometimes called complex prepositions.

Can you replace the complex preposition in the examples above with a single word?

In many cases, prepositions will be placed directly before nouns or pronouns, forming a preposition phrase so their position in the sentence (distribution) can often help us identify them:

  • Tomorrow I’m meeting Sarah Duncan for lunch[W1B-004 #84]
  • And someone came and locked the gate after us. [S1A-009 #255]
  • And she told me that she was starting this class with Adam. [S1A-002 #5]
  • Do you have anyone in mind[W1B-018 #119]
  • At daybreak everything has to be dried. [S2B-024 #98]

Expanded noun phrases, with determiners or adjectives can also be part of preposition phrases, e.g. on the stone bridge, in the tropical regions.

Here are some more examples of prepositions occurring before expanded noun phrases:

  • I think at the moment a lot of awareness within the teaching world. [S1A-001 #103]
  • There is an increased incidence in urban areas. [S2A-035 #43]
  • The shower head would have to be on this wall. [S1B-071 #180]
  • Because they were doing it on their own you see. [S1A-009 #94]


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