What Is a Preposition?

Preposition as the name suggests literally means that which is placed before. Thus, a preposition is a word generally set before other words to connect them, and to indicate the relation which they bear to each other. They are mostly placed before nounsOpens in new window and pronounsOpens in new window as, “My text-book is on the table”; “She is above me in science subjects”.

Examples of Preposition

In the sentences below, the words in emphasis are prepositions:

  • He drew comic pictures on the wall.
  • The toy was found under the bed.
  • The party starts at 7pm.
  • She will visit Kenya in August.
  • They were discussing about the movie.
  • She reports to me.

Types of Preposition

Prepositions are generally classified into three classes: simple preposition, compound preposition, and complex prepositions.

  1. Simple Prepositions — are the most common prepositions; they include: in, on, of, at, from, among, between, over, with, through, and without.
  2. Compound Prepositions — are usually a combination of two prepositions used together as one; they include: into, onto / on to (on to is British English, onto is American English), out of.
  3. Complex prepositions — These are two or three word phrase that functions in the same way as a simple preposition, they include: according to, as well as, except for, in favor of, etc.

Prepositions frequently combine with other words in structures known as prepositional phrasesOpens in new window. In such cases, a preposition is followed by a determinerOpens in new window and an adjectiveOpens in new window or two, followed by a pronounOpens in new window or nounOpens in new window known as object of the prepositionOpens in new window. This whole phraseOpens in new window, in turn, takes on a modifying role, acting as an adjective or an adverbOpens in new window, locating something in time and space, modifying a noun, or telling when or where or under what conditions something happened.

Uses and Examples

1.  Preposition (i.e. pre-position) always occur before the thing it refer to.

Example includes
  • I was trained in that academy.
    (Here that academy is the object of the preposition in)

2.  Prepositional phrases may be adjectival or adverbial, according to what they modify.

Consider the following:
  • The girl in my science class kissed me.
    (Here, in my science class qualifies girl, and it is adjectival)
  • However, in:

  • The girl kissed me in my science class.
    (in my science class modifies kissed, indicating where the kiss took place, and it is therefore adverbial.)