Prepositions - Overview


Prepositions are small words like "at", "between", "on", and "in" used mostly in connection with time and place. Many prepositions have several different meanings.


"At" is used when we talk about a certain place, a certain time, or a certain activity.


Let's meet at the traffic light at twelve o'clock.
My father is still at work.
At night, I usually do a little bit of yoga.


"After" usually means "behind" or "later than".


After my friend left, I took a bath.
The tiger went after her at lightning speed.
After the news, we had to go to bed.


"Ago" is used when we talk about something that has happened in the past and mention exactly how much time has passed since then.


We left Berlin twenty years ago.
The store closed five minutes ago.


"Before" means "earlier", or "in front of".


John arrived before Sheila was ready.
A kangaroo appeared before her and promised her great powers.
We have to leave before three.


If you have the sequence A, B ,C then B is between A and C.


We should go between August and September.
My Dad used to say: "A ham sandwich consists of two slices of bread with two slices of ham between them!"


"By" can have many meanings. It can mean "near", "before" or "according to", for example.


The big tree by the pharmacy was damaged by the storm.
"The Red-Toothed Dentist" was written by Nigel Banister.
You need to return the book by August 21st.
We decided to sort the letters by date.


The meaning of "during" is close to "while" but "during" is used only with nouns as in "during the 5 o'clock news" or "during school".


During the summer, I went to the ice cream parlor almost every day.
During the first week, I never saw him.


The meaning of "While" is close to "during" but it is used only with sentence parts that contain a verb as in "while she slept" or "while I was reading the article".


While the children slept, we watched a movie.
He had stumbled across the idea while waiting for the elevator.


"For" can have many meanings. It can express how many days or weeks something has been going on, what our destination is, who we had in mind when we did or made something, what character trait stands out in somebody, or what we are going to eat. In old fashioned English it can even mean "because".


Please Hannah, do it for me!
Kurt was known for his generosity.
We were headed for Edinburgh.
For three weeks, I heard nothing from her.
Shall we go for some ice cream, Todd?
But she loved only Peckham for his voice was soft and his hair was golden.


"From" can express where somebody was born or started a trip, what something is made of, or the expanse between two places, times, or objects.


Many of my students came from Manchester.
This cheese is made from fresh goat milk.
She was separated from her twin when she was eleven.
The story was boring from beginning to end.


"In" is an extremely versatile preposition. Its basic meaning is "inside something", but the following examples show some of its many other uses.


He was in a rage when he left.
They are supposed to get here in two hours.
The little seals were playing in the pool.
One in five teenagers regularly plays this game.


"Within" can mean "in" oder "inside".


Within a week, she had learned the material for the entire year.
Within the hour, they will all be asleep.
Within this group, we have people from ten different countries.


"On" can mean that something like a TV is running, that one thing is atop another, or that we are talking about a certain day or occasion.


The cat liked to sleep on the red couch.
When he got home, he turned on the TV.
After he passed the grocer he drove on to the end of the street.
I have moved on, but Mary still goes on and on about it.
I had met her before on several occasions.
On Friday, my niece came over.


"Till" or "Until" is used to express the end of a certain time period.


Until Monday I will not do a thing.
He said he would be gone till the end of the week.
You have till three o'clock to clean up your room.


"To" can be used to express where we are going, or together with a verb as in "to express" or "to do". There are also many expressions that use "to", like "relevant to", "pertaining to", or "similar to".


Every morning at seven he went to work.
I left home to experience something different.
I gave three things to her I never forgot.
At the meeting, they discussed things pertaining to modern window materials.
Her new job was very similar to her old one.

Up To

"Up to" is used to express a limit. The limit can be a certain period of time or a certain number.


The starved baby seals have to be fed up to ten times a day.
They can stay in there up to three hours.