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Overview of Prepositions and Adverb Particles

Small words such as up, down, and by are often prepositions. A preposition always has an object (a noun or pronoun), which usually comes right after the preposition. A preposition can be:

a single word (in, across, at, from, to, into, etc.) Please don't leave your car in the driveway. two or more words (in back of, according to, etc.) There's a parking lot in back of the restaurant.

If the object is a pronoun, it is an object pronoun. The attendant may need to move your car. Leave the keys for him. The object usually follows the preposition. It can come earlier in some types of sentences:

question-word questions (wh-questions) What are you working on? indirect speech I don't know what you're afraid of. sentences with relative clauses This is the book (that) I was telling you about. passive sentences The room hasn't been paid for. infinitive clauses The factory's safety record is something to be proud of.

Prepositions express relationships such as:


position We're opening a branch office in Toronto. direction There's a flight from New York to London at 7:30. time Are you free on Friday afternoon?

Many prepositions can be used as adverb particles. A particle doesn't need an object. It adds to the meaning of the verb. I think I'll drive over and see them. What will they think if you show up without calling first? For more information, see, Overview of Phrasal Verbs.

Prepositions of Direction and Position


Use to/from and into/out of to show movement. He went to Brazil for work. She comes from Brazil. He jumped into the water with all his clothes on. When he came out of the water, he was dripping wet. We use at, in, and on to show position:

At shows a point in space, such as a meeting place. I'll meet you at the bank. In shows a position inside a building or area. I'll meet you in the bank. At often refers to a place where an activity happens. We had dinner at a Thai restaurant. At can show a position directly next to. He was sitting at the table. On shows a position on a surface. There was a pitcher of water on the table. On can show a position along a line. The town is on the river.

Use to to show movement and at to show position with:


places: to/at work, the bank, the doctor's places attended: to/at school, college events: to/at a concert, a dance, a meeting I'm going to a meeting. It starts in ten minutes. He can't come to the phone right now. He's at a meeting.

Use to to show movement and in to show position with:

large areas, cities, and towns: to/in Asia, Mexico, Seattle They went to Mexico for a Spanish course. They were in Mexico during the earthquake. outdoor areas: to/in the park, the backyard to/in bed, prison, the hospital, the kitchen (or other room)

Prepositions of Time: at, on, and in


Use at with points in time:

exact times: at noon, at the moment (= now) He leaves for work at 7:30. meal times I'm never hungry at lunchtime. some times of the day or year: at night, dawn, dusk, Christmas time Nurses often have to work at night. ages I got my first job at the age of 16. weekend (in British English) Maybe we can get together at the weekend.

Use on with particular days:


days of the week My last interview is on Tuesday. parts of a particular day My flight is on Wednesday night. dates I'll be back on the 7th of July. birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays (New Year's Day, Mother's Day) I'm sorry I won't be here on your birthday. weekend (in American English) Maybe we can get together on the weekend.

Use in for:

parts of the day We're leaving in the morning. months They're getting married in August. seasons They usually go to Europe in the summer. years She was born in 1972. decades and centuries The house was built in the 19th century, probably in the 1870s.

Other Prepositions of Movement, Place, and Time


Some prepositions indicate movement when they follow certain verbs. The dog ran after the rabbit but didn't catch it. We walked along the path together. Drive behind me until we go under the bridge. The balloon drifted above the house. He swam across the pool. The same prepositions indicate position when they follow other verbs. The bank isn't far. It's right after the library. There are beautiful trees along the river. We sat under the tree behind the house. My bedroom is above the kitchen. They're building a garage across the street. These prepositions are used with a point in time or event:

after or before (= later or earlier than the stated time or event) Can you stop by my office after lunch? by (= at or before the stated time) This report has to be done by tomorrow. until/till (= continuing up to the stated time) I usually stay until 5. fromto/until/till (= beginning and ending at the stated times) We're open from 9 to 6. since (= starting at the stated time) Inflation has gone up three percent since the beginning of the year.

These prepositions are used with periods of time. Use:


for to say how long something continues I'll be out of the office for a couple of days. during or over to talk about a time within which something happens The company recorded a big loss during its first year.

During and over answer the question "when;" for answers the question "how long."