Where to use prepositions?

A preposition is used to link noun, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that the preposition introduces is called the object of the preposition. A preposition is used to indicate the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence. Here are some examples:

The pencil is ON the desk.
The pencil is BENEATH the desk.
The pencil is leaning AGAINST the desk.
The pencil is on the floor BESIDE the desk.
He held the pencil OVER the desk.
He wrote with the pencil DURING class.

You may have noticed that in each of the preceding sentences, the preposition located the noun "pencil" in space or in time.

Here are some general rules regarding prepositions:
  • It is permissible to end a sentence with a preposition.
  • A preposition is followed by a noun.
  • A preposition is never followed by a verb.
  • Never begin a sentence with a preposition.
  • A prepositional phrase always begins with a preposition and ends with a noun or pronoun called the OBJECT of the preposition.
  • The subject of the sentence can never be part of a prepositional phrase.
  • A verb can never be a part of a prepositional phrase.
There is a so-called “rule” about never ending a sentence with a preposition and it comes from Latin grammar. In Latin grammar, the word order of a sentence didn't matter; subjects and verbs and direct objects could appear in any sequence. However, the placement of prepositions was very important. A Latin sentence would quickly become confusing if the preposition did not appear immediately before the object of the preposition, so it became a stylistic rule for Latin writers to have objects always and immediately following prepositions. This Latin grammar "rule" meant that a sentence would never end with a preposition.

When English grammarians in the 1500s and 1600s starting writing grammar books, they tended to apply Latin rules to English, even though those rules had never been applicable before. I believe that they wanted to make English a more scholarly language, like Latin.

Here is a list of some prepositions:


aboard before failing on till
about behind for on top of to
above below from onto toward(s)
absent beneath   opposite  
according to beside(s) in out under
across between in between out of underneath
after beyond in front of outside unlike
against but in spite of over until
ahead of by in view of   unto
all over by the time of including past up
along   inside pending upon
along side circa instead of per  
amid or amidst close by into plus versus
among close to     via
around concerning less regarding  
as considering like respecting wanting
as of     round while
as to despite minus   with
aside down   save within
astride due to near saving without
at during near to similar to  
away from   next to since  
  except notwithstanding    
bar except for   than  
barring excepting of through  
because of excluding off throughout  
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