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Mastering Grammar

 “Prepositions express a relation in space between two or more entities or a relation in time between two events, or various other abstract relations such as instrument and cause.” (Cambridge Grammar of English, Carter and McCarthy, 2006, p.462).  A preposition refers to the word or phrase which shows the relationship between one thing and another, linking nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence.
For example:

(1) A relation in Place and Time: We waited at the bus stop for ten minutes. There is a telephone booth outside the bank. What are you wearing underneath your coat? She fell asleep during the lecture. The police station is next to the shopping mall. (2) Feelings: Are you worried about your exam? I was surprised at your remarks. (3) Other relationships like Instrument and Cause: The girl stabbed the burglar with a knife. Without your support, I don’t think I can finish the project so smoothly.

Exercises on Prepositions
Use of Prepositions – Exercise 1a (easy) – Exercise 1b (intermediate) – Exercise 1c (advanced) Exercise 2 – “at, in, on” (easy) Exercise 3 – Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs and Prepositions (intermediate) Exercise 4 – Use of Prepositional Phrase in Academic Writing (advanced)

Independent Learning Centre, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


Use of Prepositions
The use of prepositions is, without doubt, one of the most difficult areas of English grammar. There are over 100 prepositions in English, with one word or more than one word. One-word Prepositions
aboard about above across after against along amid amidst among around as at before behind below beneath beside besides between beyond but by despite down during except for from in inside into like near of off on onto opposite outside over past round since than through throughout till to towards/towards under underneath unlike until up upon via with within without

Two- and three-word Prepositions
according to ahead of apart from as for as of as well as because of but for by means of by virtue of due to except for for lack of in addition to in aid of in exchange for in favour of in front/back of in line with in place of inside of in spite of instead of near to next to on account of on top of out of outside of owing to prior to subsequent to such as thanks to up to

Use of Prepositions - Exercise 1a (easy) Exercise 1b (intermediate) Exercise 1c (advanced)

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cuhk.Exercise 1a – Use of Prepositions Read the following story and fill in each gap with the most suitable preposition in the box. Suggested answers: (1) for (2) inside (10) from (3) on (4) under/ (5) outside (6) about underneath (14) above (7) at/ to/ (8) in toward/ towards (15) (16) Instead of Thanks to (9) According to (11) near/ (12) up/ out (13) on next to/ in front of Independent Learning Centre. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www. Chan began to describe how she found the cat. Mrs. Christine decided to go (5) ____________ to look for it. Chan decided to tell Christine. It was her neighbour. Chan. (16) ____________ Mrs.ilc. She opened her closet and looked (2) ____________ but the cat was not there. about above underneath for on in at toward(s) from to in front of instead of inside under according to thanks to up outside out near next to Christine’s cat was missing and she started looking around the house (1) ____________ it. Chan pointed (7) ____________ the top of a nearby Christine was able to rescue it. Since her cat could not be seen anywhere inside the house. Sometimes more than one answer is possible. Chan’s help. Mrs. “ the doorbell rang. Christine! Your cat is (8) ____________ the tree!” Mrs. She went to the bedroom and crawled (3) ____________ the floor to look (4) ____________ the bed. She looked (12) ____________ and saw the cat (13) ____________ one of the branches high (14) ____________ the ground. She searched the kitchen and bathroom but found nothing. Mrs.asp 3 . (9) ____________ her. Just as she was (6) ____________ to open the door. (15) ____________ ignoring the cat. she was cleaning the windows when she heard a noise coming (10) ____________ the tree (11) ____________ her house.

You have to plan the trip yourself and take the initiative to explore everything. This is what I concluded (1) ______ completing the ABC programme (2) ____The Chinese University of Hong Kong. life is The Internet is your At the doctorate level. And the professors are black-belt masters. not destinations. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www.pdf) Suggested answers (1) after (9) as (17) at (2) at (10) in (18) from (3) as (11) for/ none (19) for (4) in (12) for (20) as (5) on (13) into (21) of (6) in (14) for/ none (22) in (7) to (15) from (23) by (8) in (16) by Independent Learning Centre. They don’t teach you. How many chances do you have (22) ______ life to have your work assessed (23) ______a world class scholar? Adapted from and inspired by an article by Ho Wai Man (Source: http://cat. Challenge them. or a they inspire. in by for into after at as to from on none Inspiration: Being inspired is the key to success for a senior student. So long (9) _______ you don’t fall asleep (10) ______ the coach.cuhk. They wonder why so little has been taught while the scope for their assignments is so broad. Studying (11) _____ a Bachelor’s degree is like going for a package tour. you will explore new ground untouched (16) _____ others.tra. you won’t fail. I found many interesting Life (3) ____ a postgraduate student (4) ____the Department of Business can be fun.asp 4 . Comparing studying (7) _____ travelling. and you listen to what the tour guide tells you. Some Master’s students may get lost (17) _____ first because they don’t realise that a different approach (18) ______ their earlier study experience is called (19) ______. They have not yet realised that the lecture notes show them the directions. They study hard reading the lecture notes (20) _______ they did before. Studying (14) ______a Master’s degree is like backpacking. Many things have been prepared (12)_____you but you still have to put extra effort (13) _____ your study. Sometimes you get help (15) _______experienced travellers. depending (5) ____ what approach you take. once you realise this and adopt the attitude (21) ______a backpacker. However. Studying (8) _____ high school is like joining a group tour. I am more than willing to share my thoughts with you (6) ____ this regard. the lecturers.Exercise 1b – Use of Prepositions Fill in each gap with a suitable preposition in the box. They welcome your questions. The libraries here are treasure islands.

Charles shares this problem of coping (17) _______ Alzheimer with other eminent persons. in 10.about/at 21. An Open Letter from Prof. to all our very good friends and especially to our tennis friends. to 23. The press and media have interviewed him and he is happy that they have found all the facts they need. Charles really does belong (15) ________ the world! In this open letter. and the many requests (7) ___________ interviews from the and he asks that the media respect this. The memory loss is getting more severe. fax. for 18. faculty and students past and present of CUHK. Charles Kao was born (11) ______ Shanghai.Exercise 1c – Use of Prepositions Fill in each gap with a suitable preposition. but he enjoys life. Unfortunately there is no cure at present for Alzheimer's. He does not smoke. for 15. followed through with work in the USA at ITT. for/ about 24. in 19. Charles and May Wan Kao 13 October 2009 (Source: http://www. Charles keeps fit playing tennis and with other exercises. we would like to thank all who have concern (16) _________ his health. of 4.cuhk. we have received messages (3) _____ friends from all (4) ______ the world (5) _________ the Internet. to staff. Margaret Thatcher. Thank you (22) _________ all your good wishes and congratulations. China.asp 5 . in 3. for/ in 17. good and bad. at 5. on Independent Learning Centre. He is eminently proud (19) _________ his past achievements and excited (20) ________ becoming a Nobel Laureate – an unexpected award. We are overwhelmed (6) __________ the sea of congratulatory messages from so many people. over the following 20 years. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www.html) Suggested answers: 1. both true and false. So he is more than ready to return (21) ________ a quiet and undisturbed life now.ilc. on 9. by 14. Our greetings to everyone in Hong Kong. Now you know who is responsible (23) __________ the fiber optical cables that enable all the excessive information.for 7. of 16. in 22. via 13. to develop fiber optics (13) ___________ a commercial product and finally came to CUHK. from 11. for 8. A Nobel Laureate of Chinese ethnicity is a rare event and we understand the outpouring (8) ____ happiness and pride (9) ___________ our people throughout the world wherever they live. that circulate (24) _________ the Internet. with 2. Hong Kong (14) _________ 1987 to pass on his knowledge and expertise to a new generation of students and businessmen. UK. to 6. into/ for 20. Ronald Reagan.cuhk. to name a did his primary research in 1966 (12) _____ Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (STL) in Harlow. The Nobel Prize is an international prize and has been awarded (10) ___________ work done internationally. over 12. and email. Charles and Mrs May Wan Kao Since the announcement (1) ________ 6 October 2009 that Charles has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize (2) _____ and he enjoys eating and drinking (18) _________ healthy moderation and sleeps well

2. The gentle.cuhk. • • • • Time Position Location Direction 1. e.ilc. A preposition may tell you the __________of something in relation to something else. e. brown cat slept beside the fluffy white rabbit. After 6 . Location 2. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www. Position 4. It may tell you the __________ a thing is in relation to something e.g.g.g. Who is that man walking towards us? Suggested answers: 1. 3. The students conducted an experiment in the laboratory. e. Time 3. Direction Independent Learning Centre. 4.What can prepositions tell us? Drag and drop the answer into the appropriate gap. It may also tell you the __________ something is travelling in relation to something else. we went for a walk. It may tell you the __________ something is in relation to another event.

and in  In general. countries. and continents) E. Her house is on King’s Road. avenues. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www.Prepositions at.g.g.  Notice the use of the prepositions of location at. Kowloon is in Hong Kong.cuhk. and in Prepositions of Place and Location: at. Independent Learning Centre. E. roads. counties. I live in West Street . She lives in Kowloon.  for the names of land areas (towns. states.g.  to designate names of streets.British English) on on a bus on a train on a plane on a ship on a bicycle/ motorbike on a hourse/ elephant on the raido/ on television on the left/ right on the way No Preposition downstairs downtown inside outside upstairs uptown on the floor on the ceiling at school* at class* at the library* in school* in (the) class* in the library* in (the) bed* on the bed* * You may sometimes use different prepositions for these locations. Samantha Tse lives at 55 King’s Road. on.asp 7 .g. we use: *at for a POINT *in for an ENCLOSED SPACE *on for a SURFACE at on in  for specific addresses Hong Kong is in Asia. etc. on. in and on in these standard expressions: at at home at work at university / college at the office at the top at the bottom at the side at reception in in a car in a taxi in a helicopter in a boat in a lift (elevator) in the newspaper in the sky in a row in West Street (

g. a month.g. She has been doing the research for five years.g. at Christmas/Easter. years) E. and in at  to designate specific/precise times E. any and one. We had the meeting yesterday afternoon. on. We will have a meeting on the First of February. some.g. My sister is coming on Wednesday. The lesson starts at 10:30 a.Prepositions of Time: at. at present.  Also at night.  with a specific date or time E. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www. He was born in winter. months. every.asp 8 .cuhk. on or in before next.g. They play badminton every weekend. Let’s see the movie tomorrow evening. He has been waiting in the conference room since 9:30 a.g. a season. all. days. He gets up very early in the evening.g. She has worked here since 1999.m. at the moment on  to designate days and dates E. I will call you this evening. at sunrise/sunset. last. on or in before tomorrow and yesterday. E. He will have a long vacation in December. at lunchtime. since Independent Learning Centre. at the weekend. She will come back next E.g. We danced for two hours. He has lived in Hong Kong for eight months.m.ilc.  Do not use at. at the same time. at noon. in E. Prepositions of Time: for and since for  when we measure time (seconds.  Do not use at. or a year E. He started the job in 2009. hours.  for nonspecific times during a day. each. minutes. We went to New York last August.

 to express movement from a place Independent Learning Centre.cuhk. in. They rushed toward She fell into the sea. Darkness travels towards light. downtown. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www.htm • • • Practise on.  with the words home.g.htm Prepositions in/at/on (notes and quiz) Place. off No preposition Exercise 2 – “at. uptown.about. toward(s) and No Preposition into. outside. and at in different contexts http://web2. towards  to express movement towards a place E. He came out of the office.Prepositions of Movement: When will you go home? They all went outside to see the sunset. onto. The cat jumped onto the table. out of. on” (easy) Learn more • Prepositions for Time. downstairs. out of. The boy went upstairs to look for the cat. into toward. Take your feet off the seat. inside. and Introducing Objects http://owl.g.asp 9 .uvic. upstairs http://www.purdue.g. in. They always walk to school together.htm Prepositions ‘at. on’ games but blindness towards death. off.  variant spellings of the same preposition of movement E. in.

hk/english/grammarpractice. I don’t want to be late. Jane: I hope it’ll come It gets worse (9) _____ the winter.asp 10 . Peter: I understand it is always very hard to wake up (6) _____ the morning. I know. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www. especially (7) _____ Mondays.cuhk.Exercise 2 – “at. Jane: How lucky! My professor gives us a penalty for being late. but my professor is never (4) _____ time for class. I tend to study late (8) _____ night and find it very hard to get up the next day. I usually arrive just (5) _____ time. Peter: The bus is supposed to come (1) _____ 8:20am and it’s already 8:30am. in or on. Let’s get (10) _____! Suggested answers: (1) at (9) in (2) in/ at (10) on (3) at (4) on (5) in (6) in (7) on (8) at Independent Learning Centre. on” Read the following dialogue and complete the sentences using at. just before my professor starts taking marks off the students who are late. What time do you have to be (2) _____ class? Peter: My first class is (3) _____ 9:00 am. Peter: Oh! The bus is finally here. Jane: Yes. in.

frightened. reply. conscious. understanding concern. respect. interest. success. annoyed*. hopeless astonished. good. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www. nervous. please different interested. excited. annoyed*. disappointed. fondness. involved keen disqualified *angry at/about sth / with sb *annoyed/ furious/happy about sth / with sb about at at/by for of to with from/to in on from Noun + Preposition approval. thirst belief. nouns and verbs. of for in to Independent Learning Centre. envious.ilc. worried angry*. clever. desire. short. increase/decrease. cause. amazed . jealous. bad. Nouns. invitation. grasp. excited. reaction. expert. awareness. reason. aware. shocked eligible. participation answer. sympathetic angry*. happy*. fond. example. furious*. rise/fall.asp 11 . and Verbs After many adjectives. request. need. love. similar. happy*. solution. sorry. famous. notorious. tired addicted. well known afraid. capable. full. hope. Following are some common examples of these combinations: Adjective + Preposition angry*. married. ashamed. made. surprised. engaged. we use particular prepositions.Prepositions and suspicious. furious*. hatred.cuhk. bored. responsible.

e. What is he thinking about? think of/about = consider.htm Prepositions with Prepositions after 12 .hk/CILL/eap/2004/u2/pg34preps. adjectives and verbs (matching exercise) http://www. verbs and adjectives (gap-filling exercise) look after = take care of.g. look for = try to find.g. Verbs and Prepositions (intermediate) Learn more Prepositions with nouns. I can’t think of any reason why the accident happened. e. The Chinese University of Hong Kong think of = have as an opinion about. = bring to mind. depend on die of differ from dispose of focus on give up grow up insist on Exercise 3 . He looks sad. What do you think of Peter? He is very handsome.ilc.evt.Verb + Preposition account for apologize to (sb)/ for (sth/sb) apply for believe in belong to benefit from bring up care about/ for* make up pay for prepare for rely on search for stem from study for suffer from (a particular illness or physical problem) coincide with laugh at / smile at talk to/with (sb) / about/of (sb/sth) comply with listen to think about/ of * cope with look at/ for/ after/ into* wait for concentrate on look forward to worry about *care about = think sb/sth is important.htm Independent Learning Centre. Adjectives. look into = investigate *think about = use the mind.citylit.php/1/Study%20skills%20work%20sheets/grammar/intermediat e/Microsoft%20Word%20%204. care for = look after *look at = use the eyes. I’m thinking of/about changing my plan.polyu. adjectives and verbs (sentence construction) http://moodle.g. e. e.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong with Adjective (rules and exercises) http://www.htm Nouns + Prepositions (notes) and more preposition exercises Independent Learning (quizzes) http://esl.cuhk.asp 13 .edu.htm Adjectives Prepositions Combinations .com/library/grammar/blgr_prep5.about.learn4good.

of. for. Prof. about) __________ the family’s financial problems.. Do not ask me to fix your laptop. If you give (out. for. about. 9. 11. by. you will never finish the project. Kate and Frank are in the library studying (at. I am not familiar (to. with. with. 4. for.ilc. Charles Kao is one of the most prominent scientists in the world. to. Jessica is angry (at. 12. 1. with) __________ my sister. by. All his students have great respect (in. to) __________ what you want to do in the future. off) __________ now. on. Verbs. to) __________ his death. of. up. 8. of) __________ her boyfriend for not showing up for the movie. My parents are worried (at. about) __________ computers. by) __________ their test next week. 10. This book belongs (to. 6.. 5. for. to) __________ the problem.asp 14 .Adjectives. Nouns and Prepositions Choose the most suitable preposition. on) __________ being late by treating her of. Please take some time to think (at. of. for) __________ him. for. for (12) of (5) about (6) with (7) to (8) up Independent Learning Centre. 7. on) __________ her (at. 2. He apologized (at. for. The belief (of.Exercise 3 . on. The police decided to investigate the cause (of. Suggested answers: (1) for (2) in (9) about (10) for (3) with (11) to (4) to. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www. for. about. The scientists have found the best solution (of. at. to. with. for) __________ aliens and UFOs is absurd! 3. in. to.

I think you should apologise to your mother (Prep + Noun).asp 15 . Peter insisted on seeing her.ilc.Prepositional Phrases (Prep + NP) A prepositional phrase is a preposition followed by a noun or noun phrase. My father likes cheeses from Italy with live bacteria.g. 4) As the complement of a noun E. I must apologise for disturbing (Prep + Gerund) you. For example. Independent Learning Centre. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www.g. A prepositional phrase looks like this: Preposition + Noun / Pronoun / Gerund e. 3) As the complement of a verb E.g. 5) As the complement of an adjective or adverb E. Polar bears usually sleep throughout the winter. the word “in” is a preposition introducing the prepositional phrase “in the classroom”. They danced in the ballroom for hours. The weather in April is very pleasant in Tokyo.g. They stayed separately from their parents. 2) As a modifier to a noun E. Some uses of English prepositional phrases: 1) As a modifier to a verb E. The government should be attentive to their needs. They suggested an amendment to the He had a strong thirst for knowledge. You should dispose of these old newspapers. in the sentence “The students are having a grammar lesson in the classroom”.

the determined athletic took up the challenge. For example: Peter worked very hard but he failed his exam and everybody felt disappointed. Inside the palace garden. The cat ran from under the bed. Under the big sofa. We can begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase in academic writing. You can play computer games until after supper. Example 1: The decline in the number of businesses owned by locals in the town of Edinburgh is a demonstration of the increasing hardship faced in rural communities in the northeast.g. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www. Labour costs are rising and manufacturers have to relocate their factories to places with cheaper labour costs. the mischievous cats were playing happily.6) As the complement of another preposition E.cuhk. (Problem: prepositional phrases are used in excess. there are all sorts of beautiful >> Despite his hard work. We can use a prepositional phrase to express the less important idea in academic writing. Peter failed his exam and everybody felt disappointed. manufacturers have to relocate their factories to places with cheaper labour costs. With confidence. Avoid excessive prepositional phrases in academic writing Prepositional phrases are necessary in writing. but they are often overused in ways that make writing problematic and too tedious.g.asp 16 . slimy E.ilc. >>Because of rising labour costs.) Independent Learning Centre. Along the wall crawled the large.

An improved version: Edinburgh’s declining number of locally owned businesses demonstrates the increased hardship faced by northeast rural 17 . (It has the same meaning but there are fewer prepositional phrases.html Independent Learning Centre.cuhk.htm Features of Academic Writing Example 2: The major aim of this study was to determine the perceived effects of smoking on the health of patients over a period of 3 years (from 2005 to 2008) in which respondents to the study had been surveyed.uefap.Use of Prepositional Phrases in Academic Writing (advanced) Learn more Prepositional Phrases (exercises) http://elc.ilc. (The same meaning with fewer prepositional phrases) Exercise 4 An improved version: This study examined how smoking affected the respondents’ health from 2005 to 2008.php Strategies for Reducing Wordiness The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www. (Problem: prepositional phrases are overused.htm Improving Your Writing Style http://www.

(In spite of) ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ 3) We finally obtained the government assistance and we were able to use an up-to-date sampling frame from which to select our sample. (Because of) >> Because of rising labour Labour costs are rising and manufacturers have to relocate their factories to places with cheaper labour costs. 1) We have done a study and found that there is a significant relationship between school shootings and playing violent video games. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www. (As a result of) ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ Independent Learning Centre.asp 18 .cuhk.g. (According to) ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ 2) We put a great effort into the project but we still failed to finish it before the deadline.Exercise 4 – Use of Prepositional Phrases in Academic Writing Use a prepositional phrase (Prep + NP) to express the less important idea in academic writing. manufacturers have to relocate their factories to places with cheaper labour costs.ilc.

cuhk. In contrast to the economic downturns of many countries around the world. According to our study. As a result of obtaining the government assistance. (With) ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ Suggested answers: 1. 3. there is a significant relationship between school shootings and playing violent video games. China’s economy has recorded phenomenal growth for at least five consecutive years. our key projects proceeded successfully. we were able to use an up-to-date sampling frame from which to select our In spite of our great effort.ilc.asp 19 . However. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www. Independent Learning Centre. we failed to finish the project before the deadline. 4. (In contrast to) ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ 5) Our key projects proceeded successfully because we paid great care and attention to details. With great care and attention to details.4) Many countries around the world are facing economic downturns. China’s economy has recorded phenomenal growth for at least five consecutive years. 2. Prepositions lists 13 Independent Learning Centre. 210-213 and 283-284 Oxford Practice Grammar with answers by John see the following links to http://web2. pp.ucl. 143-165 English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy. 462-469 Collins Cobuild Student’s Grammar by Dave Willis.htm http://www.pdf http://www.htm http://www.html http://www.htm http://owl. A-2 and A-24 Using English Grammar by Edward Woods and Nicole McLeod.aitech.englishclub. The Chinese University of Hong Kong http://www.htm A simple rule for prepositions http://www. 104-123 A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum.commnet.html http://www. pp.html Books on Prepositions • • • • • • • • • • • • Test Your Prepositions by Peter Watcyn-Jones & Jake Allsop Collins Cobuild English Guides 1: Prepositions by John Sinclair The Preposition Book (Practice toward mastering English prepositions) by Tom Cole Cambridge Grammar of English by Ronald Carter & Michael McCarthy.htm http://www.cuhk.asp • 20 .html http://www. 228-260 Advanced Grammar in Use by Martin Hewings.References and Resources For basic information about 176-189 Understanding and Using English Grammar by Betty Schrampfer 284-316 Advanced Language Practice with key by Michael http://www.Prepositions .com/esl_prepositions.purdue. pp. pp. pp.englishpage.ilc. 74-79 and 156-157 Cassell’s Students’ English Grammar by Jake Allsop.uvic. 56-57. pp.html The following websites contain quizzes and games on prepositions: http://www.englishclub.htm The following websites contain explanations of the use of prepositions:

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