English Prepositions

english prepositions

Prepositions are one of the four cornerstone skills of natural English speech for non-natives. The main challenge when learning English prepositions is that they can be very different from your mother tongue. It is better to learn prepositions by examples — this way you will establish a connection between form and meaning of preposition in your mind.
The prepositions below are divided into groups of application: prepositions of place and time. The second part of this entry contains a summary table for prepositions of time and place.

Prepositions of place: in, on, at

IN is used with big areas such as towns, cities, countries and continents:
She has been living in Europe for two years now.
Climate in the US is very diverse.
I stayed in London for two weeks
He is the best write in the world.

Same applies to enclosed spaces such as rooms/buildings. Think of it as shortened version of inside:
There is some milk in the bottle. The bottle is in the fridge.
George is in his room waiting for you.
She works in the supermarket (see comparison with at below)


ON is used when we talk about something located on a surface such as a table, a river, ground surface:
We were lying on the grass staring into the night sky.
I’ve put the morning newspaper on the kitchen table.

ON is used with names of streets and avenues:
I live on Baker Street. The museum is located on Brooks Avenue.
The house we are looking for is on Route 50.


However, if we talk about a more specific address then we use AT:
The school is at 109 Lincoln Street.
I will meet you at 65 Hancock Avenue.

We use at when talking about a point at some place instead of bigger area:
I met him at the restaurant (They met at a certain place in that restaurant, e.g. at the entrance.).
I’ll be waiting for you at the station.

Use at when talking about such places as school, shop, supermarket. At is also used when talking about companies and institutions:
He has been working at Apple for almost a decade.
I stopped at the local supermarket to do some shopping BUT: I decided to stay in the supermarket because it was raining outside (We used in because the fact of being inside the building was more important)

AT is used when talking about an event involving a group of people:
We met him at the party last night.

Prepositions of time: in, on, at

IN is used to show that something happened in unspecified point of time.
She woke up in the morning. I was born in 1971. They plan to move to New Jersey in August.

We use IN with longer periods of time (months, seasons, years, centuries):
The birds usually return here in late spring.
Harper Lee died in 2016.
Many great books were written in the 18th century.

Use IN when talking about a period of time until something happens:
I am going to leave the country in four days.
The exam results will be announced in two weeks. 

IN should be used with parts of day:
I usually wake up early in the morning
They promised to visit us in the afternoon BUT: at midday, at night, at midnight


ON is normally used with days and dates:
I’ll meet you on Monday.
She is due to arrive on the 31st of January.
These flowers always bloom on the first day of spring (Even though there is a season mentioned we still stick use ON because it refers to the day rather than the season)


AT is put before specific points at time (e.g. at 5 o’clock, at midnight, at midday, at 8:30 in the morning)
I usually get paid at the end of the month.
I hope to see you next weekend.

Use AT with meals:
You weren’t very talkative at dinner yesterday.
I will see you all guys at lunch!


Prepositions of place, summary
INONATNo preposition
(the) morning
bed
shop
London
TV
bed
Baker St.
Earth
Microsoft
shop
22 Red Ave
home
in/outside
up/downstairs

 

Prepositions of time, summary
INONAT
2009
four days
the morning
a moment
Friday
1st day
4th of July
midnight
2 a.m.
dinner
5 o’clock

 

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