42 Preposition Use

Learning Objectives

  • Identify prepositions.
  • Learn how and when to use prepositions.

A preposition is a word that connects a noun or a pronoun to another word in a sentence. Most prepositions such as above, below, and behind usually indicate a location in the physical world, but some prepositions such as during, after, and until show location in time.

In, At, and On

The prepositions in, at, and on are used to indicate both location and time, but they are used in specific ways. Review the tables below to learn when to use each one.

Preposition

Time

Example

Place

Example

in

year

in 1942

country

in Zimbabwe

month

in August

state

in California

season

in the summer

city

in Chicago

time of day (not with night)

in the afternoon

Preposition

Time

Example

Place

Example

on

day

on Monday

surfaces

on the table

date

on May 23

streets

on 124th Street

specific days/dates

on Monday

modes of transportation

on the bus

Preposition

Time

Example

Place

Example

at

time

at five o’clock

addresses

at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

with night

at night

location

at Rooney’s Grill

Exercise 1

Prepositions after Verbs or Phrasal Verbs

Prepositions often follow verbs to create expressions with distinct meanings. These expressions are sometimes called prepositional verbs. It is important to remember that these expressions cannot be separated.

Table of Verbs and Prepositions

Verb + Preposition

Meaning

Example

agree with

to agree with something or someone

My husband always agrees with me.

apologize for

to express regret for something, to say sorry about something

I apologize for being late.

apply for

to ask for something formally

I will apply for that job.

believe in

to have a firm conviction in something; to believe in the existence of something

I believe in educating the world’s women.

care about

to think that someone or something is important

I care about the health of our oceans.

hear about

to be told about something or someone

I heard about the teachers’ strike.

Verb + Preposition

Meaning

Example

look after

to watch or to protect someone or something

Will you look after my dog while I am on vacation?

talk about

to discuss something

We will talk about the importance of recycling.

speak to, with

to talk to/with someone

I will speak to his teacher tomorrow.

wait for

to await the arrival of someone or something

I will wait for my package to arrive.

Tip

It is a good idea to memorize these combinations of verbs plus prepositions. Write them down in a notebook along with the definition and practice using them when you speak.

Exercise 2

On a separate sheet of paper, complete the following sentences by writing the correct preposition after the verb.

Adomako does not (apologize for, believe in) aliens or ghosts.

It is impolite to (hear about, talk about) people when they are not here.

Manuel said he was going to (believe in, apply for) the internship.

Jonas would not (talk about, apologize for) eating the last piece of cake.

I (care about, agree with) the environment very much.

Prepositions after Adjectives

Similar to prepositions after verbs, prepositions after adjectives create expressions with distinct meanings unique to English. Remember, like prepositional verbs, these expressions also cannot be separated.

Table of Adjectives and Prepositions

Adjective + Preposition

Meaning

Example

angry at, about

to feel or show anger toward (or about) someone or

something

I am angry about the oil spill in the ocean.

confused about

to be unable to think with clarity about someone or

something.

Shawn was confused about the concepts presented at the meeting.

disappointed

in, with

to feel dissatisfaction with

someone or something

I was disappointed in my husband because he

voted for that candidate.

dressed in

to clothe the body

He was dressed in a pin-striped suit.

happy for

to show happiness for

someone or something

I was happy for my sister who graduated from

college.

interested in

giving attention to something,

expressing interest

I am interested in musical theater.

jealous of

to feel resentful or bitter toward someone or something (because of their status,

possessions, or ability)

I was jealous of her because she always went on vacation.

thankful for

to express thanks for

something

I am thankful for my wonderful friends.

tired of

to be disgusted with, have a

distaste for

I was tired of driving for hours without end.

worried

about

to express anxiety or worry

about something

I am worried about my father’s health.

Exercise 3

On a separate sheet of paper, complete the following sentences by writing the correct preposition after the verb.

Meera was deeply (interested in, thankful for) marine biology.

I was (jealous of, disappointed in) the season finale of my favorite show.

Jordan won the race, and I am (happy for, interested in) him.

The lawyer was (thankful for, confused about) the details of the case.

Chloe was (dressed in, tired of) a comfortable blue tunic.

Tip

The following adjectives are always followed by the preposition at:

Good

She is really good at chess.

Excellent

Henry is excellent at drawing.

Brilliant

Mariana is brilliant at playing the violin.

Key Takeaways

  • The prepositions in, at, and on are used to indicate both location and time, but they are used in specific ways.
  • The preposition in is used when expressing the following: year, month, season, time of day (not with night), country, state, and city.
  • The preposition on is used to express day, date, and specific days or dates and surfaces, streets, and transportation modes.
  • The preposition at is used for expressions of time, with night, and with addresses and locations.
  • Prepositions often follow verbs to create expressions with distinct meanings that are unique to English.
  • Prepositions also follow adjectives to create expressions with distinct meanings that are unique to English.

Writing Application

Write about a happy childhood memory using as many prepositions followed by verbs and adjectives as you can. Use at least ten. When you are finished, exchange papers with a classmate and correct any preposition errors you find.

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College ESL Writers: Mohawk College Edition by Barbara Hall and Elizabeth Wallace is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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