What is a Preposition?
The name preposition (pre + position) means "place BEFORE". A preposition typically comes BEFORE another word—usually a noun phrase. It tells us about the relationship between the noun phrase and another part of the sentence. Some very common prepositions are: in, of, on, for, with, at, by
Look at these example sentences:
- The book is on the round table. (relationship in space)
- We will meet in November. (relationship in time)
- I sent the information by email. (relationship of method)
Several other relationships are expressed by prepositions. In addition, more metaphorical ideas can be expressed such as: in love, beyond doubt, under investigation
If a preposition does not come BEFORE another word, it is still closely linked to another word:
- Who did you talk to?
- To whom did you talk?
- I talked to Jane.
Prepositions have no particular form. The majority of prepositions are single words, but some are two- or three-word phrases:
- one-word prepositions (before, into, on)
- complex prepositions (according to, but for, in spite of)
- noun phrase (the tall man)
- noun (rice)
- pronoun (them)
- gerund (verb in -ing form: fishing)
Try the What is a Preposition? Quiz