PREPOSITIONS

  IN ENGLISH

  A Practical Approach: Part One

 

 

 

In my experience of English and Spanish, prepositions are the most difficult subject. A preposition is a word that links other words in a sentence, to make sense of the other words by showing their relationship to time, space, place, people or logic.

I think of them as all those pesky short words but a few of them are quite long. For example: between, without, underneath, outside and throughout. The most common prepositions in English are:

 to, in, on, as, at, for, with, of, from, under, up, until and by.

 
 For our purposes the subject is basically:

1. What is the correct preposition to use?

2. When do we use it?

3. Where does it appear in a sentence?

 

There are very few rules about the use of prepositions and we must learn their use by reading and hearing good English and remembering examples. That is how we learn their use in our own language.

The simple approach I offer in this article is to look at those verbs that are usually followed by a specific preposition and learning the verb and preposition together.

In many cases we can note that a particular verb is not followed by any preposition and we can learn these verbs too. I have marked these verbs x, where x = ‘no preposition’.

 

There are a lot of prepositions in addition to the most important ones mentioned above. I have put lists of Prepositions and their Pronunciation in English on two pages apart from this one.

In this subject we are not discussing Compound Verbs in English. In a compound verb the preposition following the basic verb changes the principal meaning; in this article we are considering the prepositions that ‘partner’ the verb, those that naturally and almost automatically follow the verb in its principal meaning.

However, the dividing line is often a thin one and you should refer to Compound Verbs in English and learn those too. As I say in the compound verbs articles, all this is about improving your vocabulary – and your confidence.

You will see that in many of these examples the word ‘to’ follows the verb only because it is part of the infinitive of the verb that follows. This should not alter our practical approach to this subject: trying to remember what preposition follows a specific verb.

In the following list I have underlined the infinitives but, as I say, I don’t think their existence should affect your exercise of remembering when the preposition is used and when it is not used.

I have provided separate lists of examples: When we don't use 'to' in English Verbs.

 

Popular verbs with their partner prepositions:

TO ALLOW (permit) x or TO

They allowed more than one boy at a time on the swing.

 We are allowed to play here.

 You are not allowed to smoke in this theater.

 

TO ALLOW (N. America only: to admit) x

 He allowed that he’d been lazy this week.

 She allowed that the boys seemed to notice her.

 NOTE: the use ‘he allowed as how’ seems to be archaic or rustic.

 

TO APPEAR x or TO

 She appeared in my dream.

 She appears to be tired.

 You appear to have eaten something bad.

 

TO ASK x:

To ask a question.

She asked the teacher if there was any homework.

 

TO ASK FOR: (request)

 He asked for a sandwich.

 

TO ASK ABOUT: (enquire, inquire)

 She asked about her old friend.

 

TO CATCH x

The dog catches the ball.

We catch the train every morning.

 

TO COME x or TO

They come here every evening.

When winter comes it will be cold.

I’ll come to your party on Saturday.

The car came to a complete stop.

  

TO CONTINUE x or TO

You may continue this task later.

I’ll continue the lesson if you’re ready.

They continue to annoy me.

She continues to see that young man.

 

TO CUT x

The boy cut his finger yesterday.

I can cut more bread if you like.

 
 

TO DEPEND ON

We depend on him for our water.

I’m depending on you to help me.

 

TO ENJOY x

I enjoyed that movie last week.

She enjoys playing video games.

 

TO FEAR x or FOR

He fears all sorts of imaginary illnesses.

We fear he’ll fail all his exams.

I fear for that guy’s sanity.

 

TO FEEL x

I feel stupid wearing this hat.

She feels she won’t be able to stand the heat.

They feel very sorry for us.

 

TO GO TO

We go to New York whenever we can.

They go to the movies a lot.

She went to Cancun for her honeymoon.

 

TO GET – see The Verb to get in English

 

TO GUESS x or AT

 I guessed he was the factory inspector.

 She guessed the woman was a relative.

 They could only guess at his motives.

 

TO GUESS (N. America only - to think, assume) x

I guess this hotel is closed.

I guess I'll have to come back tomorrow.