Preposition Definition & Types

preposition definition and types

The preposition definition can be confusing. A preposition is a word that is used to link nouns, pronouns or phrases to other parts of a sentence. They express the relationship of time and space between different elements. Below we’ll explore preposition definition and types, with examples.

Prepositions are always followed by a noun or a pronoun, never a verb.

Most prepositions are a single word, but a few are made up of 2 or 3 words.

TYPES OF PREPOSITIONS

There are a hundred or more prepositions in English, and they are divided into categories:

prepositions of time
prepositions of place
preposition of direction / movement

Note – some prepositions appear in more than one category and have more than one use

PREPOSITIONS OF TIME

Prepositions of time communicate when or for how long something happened.

They are used with hours, days, dates, seasons, celebrations, parts of the day and other indicators of time.

USES

in – meaning ‘during the course of ‘
My birthday is
in January.

at – refers to a specific time
We are meeting for dinner
at 8pm.

on – refers to a specific day or date
Tony arrived
on Friday.

for – used with a duration of time
I’ve lived here
for six years

since – looks back to when something started
They’ve been married
since 1985.

by – up to a point in time
It gets dark
by about 4pm in winter in England.

within – sets a time limit for something
He should be here
within an hour.

before – refers to a time prior
He learned to walk
before he was one.

after – refers to a time past another time or event
We got home after midnight.

during – something happens while something else is happening
My phone rang
during the meeting.

ago – refers to how far back something happened
We first went to Mexico twelve years
ago.

until – up to a certain point in time
I read
until I fell asleep.

from…to – for specifying a period of time with a start and end
I work
from Mondays to Fridays.

to – used for telling the time
The train arrived at ten minutes
to three.

past – used for telling the time
The train lest at five minutes
past four.

PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE

These prepositions are used to express where something or someone is located in relation to someone or something else.

Generally the meaning is very literal, and easy to understand:

The dog is in his bed.
The cup is
on the table.
My house is across the street from hers.
We lay beneath the tree.

USES

*usually we use in with places, exception is when talking about stops on a journey – use at

at or on with addresses?

at – with the exact address with the number
She lives
at 25 London Road 

on – with approximate address
She lives on London Road

Sometimes the meaning can be nuanced, and also easily swayed by context, for example:

PREPOSITIONS OF DIRECTION / MOVEMENT

These are used to show movement from one place to another, and to indicate a direction.

She was cycling along the road.
He came running up the stairs.
He kicked the ball to me.
We drove around all night.

PRACTICE EXERCISES

1. Choose the correct preposition – in, at, on
_____ Monday
_____ January
_____ midnight
_____ foot
_____ the left
_____ Christmas Day
_____ Christmas
_____ 1922
_____ the weekend
_____ the sea

2. Find the incorrect use of a preposition
a. at the bus
b. in the car
c. up the steps
d. along the corridor

3. Which one is incorrect?
a. around the corner
b. in hospital
c. on the school
d. beside the fence

Answers
1. on, in, at, on, on, on, at, in, at/on, in
2. a    3. c