Correct Use of Prepositions
Generally Prepositions are used before their objects.
- The book is on the table.
- He is in his office.
- He is fond of tea.
- She comes from Delhi.
In the above sentences on, in, of, from are Prepositions and they have all been used before their objects (table, office, tea, Delhi).
A Preposition may have two or more than two objects.The Preposition will be used before the first of all these objects. As:
- The cattle graze in valleys and pastures.
- She is very fond of grapes, apples and oranges.
But in the following conditions Preposition is used after the Object:
(1) When the object is Relative Pronoun ‘that’, the Preposition is placed at the end of the sentence. As:
- This is the book that you asked for.
- That is the car that you travelled by.
- I know the man that you were talking to.
(2) Also when the object is some understood (hidden) Relative Pronoun, the Preposition is placed at the end of the sentence. As:
- That is the house * I lived in. (In this sentence Relative Pronoun ‘that’ or ‘which’ is understood at the point marked *)
- That is the man (whom) I was speaking of.
- There is the book (that) you were looking for.
(3) When the object is an Interrogative Pronoun (who/whom/what/which), the Preposition is placed at the end of the sentence. As:
- What are you looking at ?
- What are you thinking of ?
- Which of these houses do you live in ?
- Whom are you going with ?
(4) Sometimes for the sake of emphasis the object is placed at the beginning of the sentence. In that case also the Preposition is placed at the end of the sentence. As:
- Him I depend on.
- This I insist on.
- That you must speak out.
(5) In the Passive Voice also the Preposition is placed at the end of the sentence.
- He can be relied upon.
- Was the proposal agreed to ?
Omission of Preposition
In some situations the Preposition is not used. There either it is not required, or it is omitted.
(1) No Preposition is required before the object of a Transitive verb. As:
- I shall meet you again. (‘meet with you’ is wrong.)
- They caught the thief. (‘caught to the thief’ is wrong.)
- I read a book. (‘read of a book’ is wrong.)
- We have done our work. (‘have done of our work’ is wrong.)
(2) Before expressions of Place and Time no Preposition (for, from, in, on) is used. As:
- I came here last week. (Not, ‘in last week’)
- I am going abroad. (Not, ‘for abroad’)
- Please wait a minute. (Not, ‘wait for a minute’)
- She is waiting outside. (Not, ‘waiting on outside’)
(3) When some expressions of Time (as morning, evening, day, night, month, year, etc.) have some qualifying words as this, that, next, every, last, all used before them, no Preposition is needed before them. As:
- He went this morning.
- He met me last evening.
- He is coming again next Sunday.
Note: But if these expressions of Time have no qualifying words before them, they take necessary Prepositions before them. As:
- He went in the morning.
- He met me in the evening.
- He is coming again on Sunday.
(4) No Preposition is required before yesterday, today, tomorrow. As:
- Please come tomorrow. (not ‘on tomorrow’)
- He is returning today. (not ‘on today’)
- He came yesterday also. (not ‘on yesterday’)
(5) No Preposition is used before Home. As:
- I am going home. (not ‘to home’)
- I go home every Sunday. (not ‘to home’)
Note: But if there is a Possessive Adjective before Home, or if Home is used in the sense of House, we use appropriate Preposition before it.
(6) If two Verbs are to be used in a sentence, and both the verbs have to take different Prepositions, we must use appropriate Preposition for each verb separately. As:
- I have been thinking about and waiting for you since the morning.
- He has been looking for and enquiring after you for a long time.
Correct Use of Prepositions
There are some Verbs which take no Preposition after them. They are:
Attack, await, accompany, assist, request, investigate, inform, obey, comprise, order, reach, resemble, resist, violate.
It is wrong to use any Preposition after the above noted verbs, but this error is often committed.
- America attacked on Iraq. (no ‘on’)
- I await for your instructions. (no ‘for’)
- I shall accompany with you. (no ‘with’)
- I shall assist to you. (no ‘to’)
- I request to you. (no ‘to’)
- We shall investigate into the case. (no ‘into’)
- I shall inform to you. (no ‘to’)
- I shall obey to you. (no ‘to’)
- The group comprises of ten boys. (no ‘of’)
- I order to you. (no ‘to’)
- I reached at the station. (no ‘at’)
- He resembles to you. (no ‘to’)
- He will resist to you. (no ‘to’)
- He violated to the rule. (no ‘to’)
Use of Some Typical Prepositions
In / Into
In is used to show the position of rest of a thing within another thing, while into shows a thing in motion, something moving inside something else.
In = Position of rest
Into = Position of motion
- The table is in the room.
- We shall sit in the hall.
- There is a tiger in the cage.
- The ball fell into the well.
- The thief broke into my room.
- The tiger moves into the cave.
In / Within
‘In’ expresses the time-range up to the last point / moment of the given period, while within expresses the limit before the last moment of the given period. As:
- He will return in (at the close of) a week’s time.
- He will return within (in less than / before the close of) a week’s time.
- You must finish the work in a month. (by the close of a month)
- You must finish the work within a month. (before the month closes)
In / At
‘In’ points to a large area of Time or Place, while ‘at’ refers to a small area or fixed point of Time and Place. Therefore, we use ‘ in’ for countries, states and bigger cities, and ‘at’ for villages and towns. Similarly, we use ‘in’ for larger range of time, and at for a fixed point of time. As:
- He lives at Agra.
- He lives in Uttar Pradesh.
- He will come at six O’clock.
- He will come in the morning.
- He lives in Bombay.
- He lives at Hathras.
In / At
There is one more difference between ‘at’ and ‘in’. At refers to a stationary position, while in refers to a state of motion. As:
- The train is in motion.
- He stands at the top of the hill.
- The work is in progress.
- He is at home.
On / Upon
‘On’ refers to a state of rest or stationary position, while ‘upon’ refers to a state of motion. As:
- The book is on the table.
- He jumped upon the table.
With / By
‘With’ is used for Instrument (lifeless), while by is used for living Person or Agent. As:
- The letter was written with a ball-pen.
- The letter was written by Ram.
- The branch of the tree was cut with an axe.
- The branch of the tree was cut by the servant.
Between / Among
‘Between’ is used for two persons, things or ideas, while ‘among’ is used for more than two. As:
- Divide this property between the two brothers.
- Divide this property among the three brothers.
- There is a passage between the two lanes.
- He passed the night among the aliens.
Till / To
Till is used for time, and to for place. As:
- He worked till 8 O’clock.
- He came to the outer gate.
Since / From
‘Since’ is used before a Noun or a phrase to show a certain point of time. It is used in Perfect tense only. From is also used to show a point of time but it is used in non-perfect tense.
Remember that both since and from show only a point of time, not a period of time. We can say since Friday, or since 1995, or since today, but we cannot say since four days or from a week. As:
- I have been living in Canada since 1990.
- I studied English from the age of six.
- I shall start working from Friday.
- He has been working very hard since July.
Note: For Period of time we use for. As:
- I have been living in Canada for five years.
- I worked in this office for six months.
Beside / Besides
‘Beside’ means by the side of, while ‘besides’ means in addition to. As:
- The Fort stands beside the river Yamuna.
- He came and stood beside me.
- He has a scooter besides a car.
- He has written two short stories besides a novel.
Among / Amongst
Both these words have almost the same meaning and usage, but among is more popularly used. But there is one difference in their usage.
Amongst must be used in those sentences in which the word coming after it begins with a Vowel. As:
- He is very popular amongst us.
- He is very popular among the students.
On / At
Both these can show time. But on is used for a fixed day or date, while at is used for hour. As:
- I shall come on Sunday.
- I shall come on July 15.
- I shall come at 5 p.m.
For / During
Both these show period of time, but the difference between them is that for is used for an indefinite period, while during is used for a definite period. As:
- He has gone for a long time.
- He is on leave for a month. (There is no reference to a definite month)
- He will be here during Christmas holidays.
- He will stay with me during June.
Of / Off
‘Of’ is a Preposition of joining, while off is a Preposition of separation . As:
- A member of the family, page of a book, student of a college, one of many, etc.
- He is off duty today. (Not on duty)
- He jumped off the roof.
Preposition + Gerund
There are certain Verbs and Adjectives after which Infinitives are never used. In place of Infinitives we use Preposition + Gerund (verb + ing) after these words.
We give below a list of such Verbs and Adjectives along with the Prepositions which are used with them:
Abstain from, aim at, assist in, based on, confident of, debar from, desirous of, desist from, despair of, disqualified from, dissuade from, excel in, excuse for, fortunate in, hinder from, hopeful of, insist on, intend on, meditate on, negligent in, passion for, perceive in, persist in, prevent from, (to take) pride in, prohibit from, proud of, refrain from, repent of, succeed in, successful in, think of.
See these sentences. They are all correct:
- He is confident of winning the prize. (‘confident to win the prize’ would be wrong.)
- He insists on going there. (‘ insists to go’ is wrong.)
- I cannot think of displeasing him. (‘think to displease’ is wrong.)
- He is fortunate in having a friend like you. (‘fortunate to have’ is wrong.)
Note: Nowadays Infinitives have also come to be used after aim.
- I aim to win the first prize.
- He aims to rise to the top.
Same Words With Different Prepositions
There are certain words with which different Prepositions can be used, but their meaning changes with the change of Prepositions. Different Prepositions have come into usage with them. As:
- I had the advantage of you.
- You gained an advantage over me.
- I waited upon him at his office.
- I waited for him yesterday.
- He prevailed upon me to agree.
- He prevailed over me in the dispute.
- No argument prevailed with him.
- You agree with me.
- You agree to my proposal.
- I commence by observing.
- I commence with the observation.
- You attended upon his leisure.
- You attended to his command.
- He was invested with the crown.
- All his money was invested in business.
- He is afflicted with fever.
- He was afflicted at your failure.
- I blush for her.
- I blush at her misconduct.
- What is the cause / reason / occasion / ground of this delay ?
- Is there any cause / reason / occasion / ground for this delay ?
- This is the subject of inquiry.
- This is a subject for inquiry.
- He is disqualified from competing.
- He is disqualified for the post.
- He is liable for damages.
- He is liable to a fine.
- I concur with you.
- I concur in your decision.
- The statesman deals with politics.
- The shopkeeper deals in stationery.
- He lent money at high interest.
- He lent money on safe security.
- We are responsible to God.
- We are responsible for our actions.
- I charge my failure to / upon you.
- I charge you with my failure.
- His face is familiar to me.
- I am familiar with his face.
- Let us now proceed to business.
- Let us now proceed with the business.
- He is the slave / victim of his passions.
- He is a slave / victim to his passions.
- He is possessed of property.
- He is possessed with an idea.
- I differ with you on this issue.
- I differ from you in temperament.
- Compare a town with a city. (similar things)
- Compare anger to madness. (dissimilar things)
- Many Hindus were converted to Buddhism.
- His sorrow was converted into joy.
- I am tired of sitting idle.
- I am tired with double duty.
- What is the use of discussing ?
- There is no use in discussing.
- I have no use for this.
- He made war upon luxury.
- He made war with superstitions.
- This behaviour was not expected from you.
- It is not expected of us to solve this problem.
- He has done his duty by his parents.
- He has done his duty in this matter.
- You will think of me when I am not here.
- Think over / on my proposal carefully.
- He is destined for business.
- He is destined to misery.
- I am disappointed in you.
- He was disappointed of success.
- He demanded vengeance upon you.
- He demanded vengeance for your deed.
- God will provide for our needs.
- We must provide against the rainy day.
- Communicate with him on this issue.
- Communicate this to him.
- I am not concerned in the business.
- I am much concerned at your losses.
- I except you from this responsibility.
- I take exception to your language.
- He parted from his family.
- He parted with his property.
- I am reconciled with my brother.
- I am reconciled to my fate.
- This discovery was credited to Newton.
- Newton was credited with this discovery.
Different Forms of Words followed by Different Prepositions
- I sympathise with you.
- I feel much sympathy for you.
- I solicited him for his help.
- I am solicitous of his help.
- He is descended from King Arthur.
- He is a descendant of King Arthur.
- I am regardful of his interests.
- I have regard for his interest.
- He is fond of colourful dresses.
- He has fondness for colourful dresses.
- Pursuant to my wishes.
- In pursuance of my wishes.
- According to your directions.
- In accordance with your directions.
- I am satisfied with your progress.
- I feel great satisfaction in / at your success.
- He is on leave preparatory to retirement.
- He has made all preparations for retirement.
- He is proud of his position.
- He takes pride in his position.
- I am hopeful of success.
- I hope for success.
- I am delighted with him.
- I take delight in him.
- I am ashamed of him.
- I feel shame at his conduct.
- I am going in search of him.
- I am going to search for him.
- I have a dislike to him.
- I have a liking for him.
- I am sensible of pain.
- I am insensible to pain.
- He is equal to me.
- He is co-equal with me.
- He is qualified to compete.
- He is disqualified from competing.
- He encouraged me to go forward.
- He discouraged me from going forward.
- I have trust in you.
- I have distrust of you.
- This is contrary to that.
- This is contrasted with that.
- This is subsequent to his application.
- This is consequent upon his application.
- She is different from you.
- She is indifferent to you.
- He is neglectful of his studies.
- He is negligent in his studies.
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