Prepositions

Prepositions are short words (on, in, to) that usually stand in front of nouns (sometimes also in front of gerund verbs).

Even advanced learners of English find prepositions difficult, as a 1:1 translation is usually not possible. One preposition in your native language might have several translations depending on the situation.

There are hardly any rules as to when to use which preposition. The only way to learn prepositions is looking them up in a dictionary, reading a lot in English (literature) and learning useful phrases off by heart (study tips).

The following table contains rules for some of the most frequently used prepositions in English:

Prepositions – Time

English Usage Example
  • on
  • days of the week
  • on Monday
  • in
  • months / seasons
  • time of day
  • year
  • after a certain period of time (when?)
  • in August / in winter
  • in the morning
  • in 2006
  • in an hour
  • at
  • for night
  • for weekend
  • a certain point of time (when?)
  • at night
  • at the weekend
  • at half past nine
  • since
  • from a certain point of time (past till now)
  • since 1980
  • for
  • over a certain period of time (past till now)
  • for 2 years
  • ago
  • a certain time in the past
  • 2 years ago
  • before
  • earlier than a certain point of time
  • before 2004
  • to
  • telling the time
  • ten to six (5:50)
  • past
  • telling the time
  • ten past six (6:10)
  • to / till / until
  • marking the beginning and end of a period of time
  • from Monday to/till Friday
  • till / until
  • in the sense of how long something is going to last
  • He is on holiday until Friday.
  • by
  • in the sense of at the latest
  • up to a certain time
  • I will be back by 6 o’clock.
  • By 11 o’clock, I had read five pages.

Prepositions – Place (Position and Direction)

English Usage Example
  • in
  • room, building, street, town, country
  • book, paper etc.
  • car, taxi
  • picture, world
  • in the kitchen, in London
  • in the book
  • in the car, in a taxi
  • in the picture, in the world
  • at
  • meaning next to, by an object
  • for table
  • for events
  • place where you are to do something typical (watch a film, study, work)
  • at the door, at the station
  • at the table
  • at a concert, at the party
  • at the cinema, at school, at work
  • on
  • attached
  • for a place with a river
  • being on a surface
  • for a certain side (left, right)
  • for a floor in a house
  • for public transport
  • for television, radio
  • the picture on the wall
  • London lies on the Thames.
  • on the table
  • on the left
  • on the first floor
  • on the bus, on a plane
  • on TV, on the radio
  • by, next to, beside
  • left or right of somebody or something
  • Jane is standing by / next to / beside the car.
  • under
  • on the ground, lower than (or covered by) something else
  • the bag is under the table
  • below
  • lower than something else but above ground
  • the fish are below the surface
  • over
  • covered by something else
  • meaning more than
  • getting to the other side (also across)
  • overcoming an obstacle
  • put a jacket over your shirt
  • over 16 years of age
  • walk over the bridge
  • climb over the wall
  • above
  • higher than something else, but not directly over it
  • a path above the lake
  • across
  • getting to the other side (also over)
  • getting to the other side
  • walk across the bridge
  • swim across the lake
  • through
  • something with limits on top, bottom and the sides
  • drive through the tunnel
  • to
  • movement to person or building
  • movement to a place or country
  • for bed
  • go to the cinema
  • go to London / Ireland
  • go to bed
  • into
  • enter a room / a building
  • go into the kitchen / the house
  • towards
  • movement in the direction of something (but not directly to it)
  • go 5 steps towards the house
  • onto
  • movement to the top of something
  • jump onto the table
  • from
  • in the sense of where from
  • a flower from the garden

Other important Prepositions

English Usage Example
  • from
  • who gave it
  • a present from Jane
  • of
  • who/what does it belong to
  • what does it show
  • a page of the book
  • the picture of a palace
  • by
  • who made it
  • a book by Mark Twain
  • on
  • walking or riding on horseback
  • entering a public transport vehicle
  • on foot, on horseback
  • get on the bus
  • in
  • entering a car  / Taxi
  • get in the car
  • off
  • leaving a public transport vehicle
  • get off the train
  • out of
  • leaving a car  / Taxi
  • get out of the taxi
  • by
  • rise or fall of something
  • travelling (other than walking or horseriding)
  • prices have risen by 10 percent
  • by car, by bus
  • at
  • for age
  • she learned Russian at 45
  • about
  • for topics, meaning what about
  • we were talking about you

Exercises on Prepositions

Difference Between Going to and Will

 

Going to and Will

“Going to” and “will” are used in the English language as the future tense. The future tense has many different ways of being expressed. Different forms include the simple future tense, “going to form, be about to form,” and the future continuous tense, future perfect tense, and future perfect continuous tense.

“Going to” and “will” are used for the simple future tense, but their usages are different from each other. Let’s try to understand them by some examples and explanations.

Simple future tense

Will

The simple future tense is used in the English language to tell about things that cannot be controlled. The simple future tense is used to express the future as a fact. For example, It will be Christmas in a week.
We also use this tense to express our belief about the future and what we think might happen in the future. For example:

I think the U.S. is going to win the soccer match.

While talking about what we think might happen in the future, we also use words like; I believe, probably, expect, I am sure, I think, etc. For example:

I believe I will go for a movie today.

I will probably go for a movie today.

We also use this tense when we decide at the time of speaking that something has to be done. For example:

It is raining. I will tell mom to take an umbrella.

Going to form

“Going to” is used when we have decided to do something before talking about it. For example:

“Why do you want to sell your car?”

“I am going to buy an SUV.”

The main thing to remember in the “going to” form is that the decision should have been made before talking about it and all the preparations made to do the act. It is important to remember that in such cases when decisions have already been made, the simple future tense with “will” should not be used.

The “going to” form is also used to talk about something going to happen in the future or likely to happen in the future with certainty depending upon the present. For example:

It is definitely going to rain; look at the black clouds in the sky.

This form is also used to express an action at the point of it happening. For example:

Get in the car, it is going to rain.

Summary:

1.“Will” and “going to” are both used for the future tense. “Will” is used in the simple future tense where the decision is immediate; whereas the “going to” form is a separate form which is not used for the simple future tense.
2.“Will” is used to express the future as a fact. It is used to express what we think might happen in the future and when we decide at the time of speaking that something has to be done in the future. Whereas the “going to” form is used for a decision that has been taken before speaking for something which is likely to happen for sure in the future and to express an action at the point of happening.

Conjunctions

 

What are conjunctions?

A conjunction is a part of speech that joins two words, phrases or clauses together.

There are three types of conjunctions:

Coordinating Conjunctions Correlative Conjunctions Common Subordinating Conjunctions
  • for
  • and
  • nor
  • but
  • or
  • yet
  • so
  • either…or
  • neither…nor
  • not only…but also
  • both…and
  • whether…or
  • after
  • before
  • although
  • though
  • even though
  • as much as
  • as long as
  • as soon as
  • because
  • since
  • so that
  • in order that
  • if
  • lest
  • even if
  • that
  • unless
  • until
  • when
  • where
  • whether
  • while

Coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions, also called coordinators, are conjunctions that connect two or more equal items.

Examples:

  • He plays tennis and soccer
  • He works quickly but accurately
  • You’d better do your homework, or you’ll get a terrible grade.

Correlative conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are used in pairs.They work in pairs to coordinate two items. Examples of correlative conjunctions include both…and…, either…or, not only… but also…

Examples:

  • I didn’t know that she can neither read nor write.
  • You can either walk to school or take the bus.
  • Both Sara and James are invited to the party.
  • Whether you watch TV or do your homework is your decision.
  • Not only are they noisy but they are also lazy.

Subordinating conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions, also called subordinators, are conjunctions that join a dependent (or subordinating) clause to an independent (or main) clause.

Examples:

  • He reads the newspapers after he finishes work.
  • Even if you get the best grade in the writing test, you’ll need to pass an oral test.
  • Although he is very old, he goes jogging every morning.
  • She didn’t go to school because she was ill.
  • They went to bed since it was late
  • As soon as the teacher had arrived, they started work.

“So”, subordinating conjunction or coordinator?

So” is a small English word that can have different meanings. As mentioned in the table above, it is commonly used as a coordinator rather than as a subordinating conjunction. There are, however, instances when “so” may introduce purpose and in this case “so” is used as a subordinating conjunction.

Examples:

  • “I took my umbrella with me so I wouldn’t get wet.”
  • ” I stayed so I could see you.”

Related Pages

What’s the difference? Present Perfect and Past Simple

Present Perfect Simple Past Simple
Unfinished actions that started in the past and continue to the present:

  • I‘ve known Julie for ten years (and I still know her).
Finished actions:

  • I knew Julie for ten years (but then she moved away and we lost touch).
A finished action in someone’s life (when the person is still alive: life experience):

  • My brother has been to Mexico three times.
A finished action in someone’s life (when the person is dead):

  • My great-grandmother went to Mexico three times.
A finished action with a result in the present:

  • I‘ve lost my keys! (The result is that I can’t get into my house now).
A finished action with no result in the present:

  • I lost my keys yesterday. It was terrible! (Now there is no result. I got new keys yesterday).
With an unfinished time word (this week, this month, today):

  • I‘ve seen John this week.
With a finished time word (last week, last month, yesterday):

  • I saw John last week.

Click here for more information about the present perfect tense
Click here for more information about the past simple tense

Remember:

  1. We use the past simple for past events or actions which have no connection to the present.
  2. We use the present perfect for actions which started in the past and are still happening now OR for finished actions which have a connection to the present.
  3. We CAN’T use the present perfect with a finished time word:
    • NOT: I’ve been to the museum yesterday.

If you want to learn more about the tenses, especially about how to use them when you’re speaking, you could try my video course, Terrific Tenses, which is part of Perfect English Grammar Plus.

Transportation Prepositions In English: BY, IN, And ON

Prepositions are tricky in all languages because they usually don’t have any rules that a student can memorise and use every time without exception.

Why, for example, do we say we are fond of but in love with someone? Why are we happy about something, but delighted with the same thing? It can certainly be very frustrating for a student when there doesn’t seem to be any logic or consistency to the new language.

When we talk about ways to travel, however, there are a few rules that work 100% of the time. Let’s take a look at them:

 

General Ways to Travel

BY

When talking about general ways to travel, we always use the preposition “by.” We can travel by bike, by motorcycle, by car, by van, by lorry, by truck, by train, by plane, by bus, by ship, by tram, or by boat.

We can also use by to refer to the transportation environment (by sea, by land, by air) or the surface area (by rail, by road, by water).

Continue reading

Verb Tense Consistency

There are three main verb forms for showing time or tense:

Simple Tense

  • does not use auxiliary verbs
  • refers to specific time period during which

    something happens
    OR
    something happened and is over
    OR
    something will happen

Simple present (action goes on now):  I sit

Simple past:  (action happened and is over):   I sat

Simple future  (action will happen):   I will sit

 

 

 Perfect Tense

  • uses have, has, or had as auxiliary verb
  • allows action to continue over time

Present perfect (action happened and may still be going on):   I have sat

Past perfect (action happened before something happened in the past):  I had sat

Future perfect (action will be considered in the future, by which time it will have already happened):                                                                                                                                      I will have sat

 

Progressive Tense

  • uses is, are, was, or were as auxiliary verb with –ing ending on main verb
  • focuses on “progress” of action

Present progressive (action is in progress right now):   I am sitting

Past: progressive (action was in progress in the past):  I was sitting

Future progressive (action will be in progress in the future):  I will be sitting

 

Each of the above tenses denotes a specific time for an action or event to take place.  Writers should be careful to use the exact tense needed to describe, narrate, or explain.

In general . . .

  • Do not switch from one tense to another unless the timing of an action demands that you do.
  • Keep verb  tense consistent in sentences, paragraphs, and essays.

 

Verb tense consistency on the sentence level

  • Keep tenses consistent within sentences.
  • Do not change tenses when there is no time change for the action.

INCORRECT:

 

CORRECT:

 

Since there is no indication that the actions happened apart from one another., there is no reason to shift the tense of the second verb.

 

Note another example.

INCORRECT:

 

 

 

CORRECT:

 

The above sentence means that Mary walks into a room at times.  The action is habitual present.  The second action happens when the first one does.  Therefore, the second verb should be present as well.

 

Change tense only when there is a need to do so.
Usually, the timing of actions within a sentence will dictate when the tense must change.

 

CORRECT:

The first action will take place in the future; therefore, the second one will as well.

 

CORRECT:

 

The second action took place in the past; the first action occurred before the past action.  Therefore, the first action requires the past perfect tense (had + verb).

 

Verb tense consistency on the paragraph level

  • Generally, establish a primary tense and keep tenses consistent from sentence to sentence.
  • Do not shift tenses between sentences unless there is a time change that must be shown.

PRESENT TENSE PARAGRAPH

 

All actions in the above paragraph happen in the present except for the future possibility dependent upon a
present action taking place: ” If a cat sees the bird, the cat will kill it.”

 

PAST TENSE PARAGRAPH

All of the actions in the above paragraph happen in the past except for the possibility dependent upon
one action taking place:  “If a cat saw the bird, the cat would kill it.”

 

Verb tense consistency on the essay level 

  1. Use present tense when writing essays about
  • your own ideas
  • factual topics
  • the action in a specific movie, play, or book

YOUR OWN IDEAS

 

FACTUAL TOPIC

 

 

ACTION IN A SPECIFIC MOVIE OR BOOK

 

 

NOTE:  When quoting from a work, maintain the present tense in your own writing, while keeping the original tense of the quoted material.

EXAMPLE (quoted material is shown in  blue)

 

 

  1. Use past tense when writing about
  • past events
  • completed studies or findings,  arguments presented in scientific literature

 

EXAMPLE – PAST EVENT

 

Note the justified use of present tense in the last sentence (shown in blue).

EXAMPLE – SCIENTIFIC STUDY

 

 

  1. Use future tense when writing about
  • an event that will occur in the future.

EXAMPLE – FUTURE EVENT

 

 

  Remember . . .

  • Change tense ONLY when something in the content of your essay demands that you do so for clarity.

Note how the following example incorporates  tense change as needed to clarify several time periods.