15 Prepositions that Confuse even Advanced English Language Learners

November 12, 2016
12 November 2016,
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Prepositions connect nouns or pronouns to the rest of a sentence. As they serve a particular purpose, it is important to use them correctly or the meaning of your sentence can be altered. For example, “I went to the dentist” is different from “I went by the dentist.” The first implies that you had your teeth cleaned, the second that you passed his office on your way to somewhere else. Here are 15 English prepositions, that confuse even Advanced English language learners.

ON

Describes the physical or spatial relationship between two objects. The pen is on the table. She wears gloves on her hands. I spilled ink on my dress. It can also be used to mean that something is engaged or in a functional state: Turn the lights on. Switch on the TV. She’s on the phone.

AT

Indicates location or time. The meeting starts at ten o’clock. It will be held at the restaurant. They got married at the cathedral. You have arrived at your destination.

IN

This word means that something or someone is inside or within something or somewhere else. He is in the dining room. The shoes are in the box. It can also be used to mean that you are involved with something intangible, as when we say “They are in love with each other.”

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SINCE

Shows that time has passed between the beginning of something and the present moment. I’ve been up since six a.m. It’s been a long time since I saw her. He’s been working there since April. It can also be used to mean “because.” For example: Since you are always at work, I have to clean the house.

BY

Can be used to describe time or responsibility. You can say “be home by nine o’clock” or “We should be there by now” but also “The story was written by Joe” or “The delay was caused by a traffic accident.”

UNTIL

Indicates that a period of time will pass, has passed, or has ended. You go to school from 9 until 3; you stay up until ten; you wait until Mom comes home.

TO

Links more than one thing or idea, or implies giving someone something. You give flowers to your girlfriend; you walk from home to school; you work from 9 to 4 every day. It can also indicate an amount of time that has not yet passed, as when you say “it’s ten to seven,” meaning that ten minutes must still pass before it will be seven o’clock.

THROUGH

One can go from one place to another by passing through something or somewhere. You go through a tunnel; you pass through a town or village. You can also use this to mean that you are undergoing or enduring a situation: to go through a difficult time, to get through a bad day; to work your way through university.

FROM

Use “from” to let people know the origin or beginning of something: You got a card from Jennie. I speak from the heart. It can also be used to indicate the start of a fixed period of time: The seminar runs from Tuesday to Thursday.

INTO

This word is a combination of “in” and “to,” but its use is very specific: It indicates that something has been placed inside of something else, has become a part of something else, or has changed to become something else. She turned the frog into a prince. We got into the car. He made the fabric into a dress.

ONTO

As with “into,” this is made from the words “on” and “to,” and is used when something is placed directly on top of something else: He placed the flowers onto the coffin; she got onto the motorcycle.

OVER

Can indicate number or amount, but also that something is located above or higher than something else. So you can say “There were over 100 people there” but also “The bird flew over the house” or “we walked over the bridge.” Just to make it even more confusing, you can also use OVER to indicate preference: He chose her over seven others to be his secretary.

UNDER

The opposite of OVER. “Under 100 people attended the opera.” “We walked under the bridge.” “I placed the couch under the window.”

BETWEEN

Use this word to indicate that a noun has other nouns on either side of it. So: She stood between Joe and Dave. The river flows between the two cities. It can also be used to indicate choosing from one of two options. I’m deciding between red roses and pink carnations.

WITH

Indicates togetherness or combination. She left the party with her friends. I like my coffee with milk and sugar. Does this shirt go with these pants?

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