Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

What is a Preposition?

  Email this page

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.

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

Prepositions can present some difficulty to the English-language learner (ELL) because sometimes there is no “logical” reason you should use a particular preposition. In fact, native speakers are often uncertain about “the correct preposition” in some cases. For example, notice the prepositions used with “angry” and “mad” below:

“I’m angry with you”
“I’m mad at you.”

Why do you use different prepositions? Well, that is just the way it is. The adjectives “angry” and “mad” call for different prepositions, which you have to learn.

In addition, many prepositions have different meanings depending on the context or how they are used.

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.

Back to Catalog Back to Prepositions List