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Grammar Lesson 101: Prepositions and What You Should Know

Prepositions are tricky bits of English grammar that even some native speakers have difficulty mastering. Part of the problem is that there are no hard-and-fast rules about what preposition to use and when to use it. Generally speaking, the best way to learn when to use a particular preposition is to master the entire phrase it belongs to.

What Is a Preposition?

There are very specific words that belong to the preposition class of words. Some of the most common ones include:

  • About
  • After
  • At
  • Between
  • By
  • Except
  • For
  • From
  • In
  • Of
  • Off
  • Up
  • With

A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun or a pronoun and another element or word in the rest of the sentence. Let us take a look at how prepositions work.

  • He swam between the buoys.

The preposition between connects the noun buoys with the verb swam.

  • The dog jumped from the sofa.

The preposition from connects the noun sofa with the verb jumped.

  • There are plenty of jobs available.

The preposition of connects the noun job with the adjective plenty.

Prepositional Problems

Because prepositional words tend to have more than one function, learning when and how to use a particular preposition can be tricky. The word “at,” for instance, has 18 different functions. English learners can directly translate a preposition from their native language. However, there are no real rules about when to use a particular word and mistakes are easily made.

For instance, the sentences “I will leave at noon.” and “I will leave by noon.” are both correct and convey the generally the same meaning (who is leaving and at what time). However, changing the preposition to after — I will leave after noon — changes the meaning of the sentence entirely.

How to Learn When to Use Prepositions

There are some general guidelines that can help English learners know when to use particular prepositions:

  • “On” with days of the week. I will see you on
  • “In” for months and years. I was born in I visited Spain in 2018.
  • “At” for specific times. I will meet you at 5 PM.

Though it should be noted that there are more exceptions to the rules than there are guidelines to follow.

Native English speakers grow up learning when to use particular prepositions not by memorization of rules because there are not any, but by mimicking what they have heard. The best way to learn prepositions is to practice your English speaking skills on a regular basis. It's through practice, you will learn when to use prepositions.

Regular use of prepositions through practice will help to ensure learners make fewer errors and achieve greater mastery. If you need further assistance in preparing for your IELTS exam, please feel free to explore the content on our website for practice materials or contact your nearest Test Centre today!


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