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What Are Prepositions? (Definition Plus Examples)

What are prepositions?

Prepositions (explained, with examples)

Prepositions are one of the main parts of speech in English; they’re utility words that show how elements within sentences relate to each other. We use prepositions to indicate place, time, direction, and sometimes abstract connections.

Though they can certainly be a trickier part of speech to get the hang of, practice and reading more about them is the best method to understanding how we use prepositions in writing and conversation (which, if you’re reading this, you’re already step ahead!)

What do prepositions do? (And how to use them)

Typically prepositions will immediately precede the word or phrase it associates with, (as its name infers; regarding, preposition, or “that which is placed before”).

  1. The cat jumped off the bed.
  2. There’s a fox in the yard.
  3. She feels ill from all the candy.

In the first sentence, the preposition “off” shows how the action of the cat’s jumping relates to the object of the bed, and so it’s connecting a verb with a noun.

In the second sentence, the preposition “in” shows a relation between two nouns: the fox and yard.

The third sentence illustrates how the feeling and adjective ill relates to the candy.

And, so, prepositions have the capacity to connect nouns with other nouns, verbs, and adjectives with nouns.

Types of prepositions

Nouns or pronouns used with prepositions are called its object (or prepositional object). Usually the preposition comes before its object (though not invariably, and can in some cases appear after).

  • Compound prepositions (generally formed by connecting a preposition with a noun, adjective or adverb)

  • Phrase prepositions (a group of words that form the preposition)

List of common prepositions

There are over a hundred prepositions in English, so this is by no means an exhaustive list. Some of the most common include:

  • for, by, from, of, as, with, about (to signal a relationship or tie)

  • to, into, towards, through, across, up, down, around, past (used to indicate movement)

  • under, over, above, below, between, in, out, on, at, by (signal location)

  • in (month/year), on (day), at (time), before, during, after, since, until (time within a month/year)

Read about the other parts of speech

  1. Nouns
  2. Adjectives
  3. Pronouns
  4. Verbs
  5. Adverbs
  6. Interjections
  7. Conjunction


  1. High School English and Grammar Composition, P.C. Wren
  2. Scribbr on prepositions.

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