A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a clause or sentence. They usually indicate the following three relationships:
Temporal in time – when?
Tom hasn't been the same since the loss of his son.
In this sentence, the prepositional phrase since the loss of his son indicates a temporal relationship between the verb phrase ‘hasn't been the same’ and the object ‘loss of his son’.
Spatial in space – where?
The child is asleep on his bed.
In this example, the prepositional phrase on his bed indicates a spatial relationship between the subject child and the object bed. If the preposition on was replaced with in the spatial relationship would be altered.
Logical based on facts = how?
Hong Kong survived despite the recession.
The prepositional phrase despite the recession in this sentence indicates a logical relationship between the survival of Hong Kong and the recession.
are made up of the preposition, plus its object and any associated adjectives or adverbs. A prepositional phrase can function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.
The noun phrase or pronoun that follows the preposition is called the object of the preposition.
‘behind the door’ is a prepositional phrase where behind is the preposition and the noun phrase ‘the door’ acts as the object of the preposition.
Sometimes adjectives are used to further modify the object of the preposition, as in behind the dirty old green car. ‘Behind’ is the preposition and ‘the dirty old green car’ is a phrasal noun. Together they make up a prepositional phrase.
Different functions of the prepositions.
The children went out in the typhoon without fear.
In this sentence, the preposition is "without" and the object of the preposition is "fear."
The prepositional phrase "without fear" functions as an adverb. It describes ‘how’ the children went out in the typhoon.
There were great celebrations throughout the city when their team won the cup.
Here, the preposition is "throughout" and the object of the preposition "the city."
The prepositional phrase acts as an adverb. It describes ‘where’ the celebrations were.
John is hiding in the toilet because he knows the teacher is very angry with him.
Here the preposition is "in" and the object of the preposition ‘the toilet’. The prepositional phrase ‘In the toilet’ acts as an adverb. It describes ‘where’ John is hiding.
Look at the boat with the blue sail.
In this sentence, the preposition is "with" and the object of the preposition is "the blue sail."
The prepositional phrase acts as an adjective. It describes the appearance of the boat.
Please hand me the pen next to the telephone.
In this sentence, the preposition is "next to" and the object of the preposition is "the telephone."
The prepositional phrase ‘next to the telephone’ acts as an adjective. It describes which pen.
Do you see the car that is beside the fence?
In this sentence, the preposition is "beside" and the object of the preposition is "the fence."
The prepositional phrase ‘beside the ‘fence‘acts as an adjective. It describes which car.
List of Common Prepositions
The following table lists the most commonly used prepositions in English.
Over Use of the Preposition
The old farmhouse stood for years, after the revolution, by the fork in the road, beyond the orange grove, over the wooden bridge, at the farthest edge of the family's land, toward the great basin, down in the valley, under the old mining town, outside the city's limits, and past the end of the county maintained road.
Just for Fun
Consider the professor's desk and all the prepositional phrases we can use while talking about it.
You can sit before the desk (or in front of the desk). The professor can sit on the desk (when he's being informal) or behind the desk, and then his feet are under the desk or beneath the desk. He can stand beside the desk (meaning next to the desk), before the desk, between the desk and you, or even on the desk (if he's really strange). If he's clumsy, he can bump into the desk or try to walk through the desk (and stuff would fall off the desk). Passing his hands over the desk or resting his elbows upon the desk, he often looks across the desk and speaks of the desk or concerning the desk as if there were nothing else like the desk. Because he thinks of nothing except the desk, sometimes you wonder about the desk, what's in the desk, what he paid for the desk, and if he could live without the desk. You can walk toward the desk, to the desk, around the desk, by the desk, and even past the desk while he sits at the desk or leans against the desk.
All of this happens, of course, in time: during the class, before the class, until the class, throughout the class, after the class, etc. And the professor can sit there in a bad mood [another adverbial construction].
Each of the following prepositions can be used just once. Fill the gaps.
toward under up out from at into on at to for in to
Suddenly Henry stood _______.
There's a cyclone coming, Em," he called ________ his wife. "I'll go look after the stock."
Then he ran ________ the sheds where the cows and horses were kept.
Aunt Em dropped her work and came ______ the door. One glance told her of the danger close ________ hand.
"Quick, Dorothy!" she screamed. "Run _______ the cellar!"
Toto jumped ________ of Dorothy's arms and hid ________ the bed, and the girl started to get him. Aunt Em, badly frightened, threw open the trap door _______ the floor and climbed down the ladder _______ the small, dark hole. Dorothy caught Toto _______ last and started to follow her aunt. When she was halfway across the room there came a great shriek _______ the wind, and the house shook so hard that she lost her footing and sat down suddenly ________ the floor.
An excerpt from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum
Noun is a word used to name a person, animal, place, thing, or an abstract idea
Pronouns can replace a noun or another pronoun. Pronouns like "he," "which," "none," and "you “are used to make your sentences less repetitive.
Phrase A group of words in a sentence with no subject or predicate.
Clause A group of words consisting of a subject and a predicate.
Sentence A clause that starts with a capital and finishes with a full stop.
Subject The part of a sentence that performs the action. It is usually a noun or noun phrase.
Object Is the noun or noun phrase that is acted on by the verb in a clause.
Predicate All of the sentence except the subject.