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Getting Smarter through Language

What is a Preposition?

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Prepositions in English are function words that connect to nouns, pronouns, or parts of sentences. They express a relationship to another word, an idea, or clause. For example, when you say the house across the street, the preposition “across” connects “house” to “street” and shows the relationship between them (in this case, a spatial relationship).

English has approximately 150 prepositions that express many different relationships. Some examples of common prepositions include of, to, on, in, about, from, and so on.

Video Activity

Watch What are prepositions? (and how to learn them) on YouTube and take good study notes.

Note. You can read this page first or watch the video before reading. It’s up to you.

One-Word and Complex Prepositions

English has both one-word prepositions and complex prepositions, that is, prepositions with more than one word such as next to, in spite of, due to, and so on. One-word and complex prepositions work the same way.

Learning Prepositions

It is often best to learn prepositions as they appear in sentences rather than try to memorize long lists without any context. Of course, as with anything in second-language acquisition, it takes practice. The more you use the language, the more you will read and hear prepositions being used in context. After some time, the correct preposition will “sound natural” in each particular case.

For a complete lesson on learning prepositions, see 5 tips to learn prepositions effectively.


Complete a short exercise to test your understanding of the information on this page and the video activity.

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