flesl.net grammar glossary::prepositions


• Prepositions make up one of the eight English word classes. They are used to make a connection between two parts of a sentence. For example, in the sentence, Jack put the chicken in the pot, the preposition “in” makes a connection between the noun phrases “the chicken” and “the pot.” Because they have this important grammatical role, prepositions are function words.

• Although they are usually followed by a noun phrase, prepositions can also be followed by an ing-clause or a wh-clause as in Jill was tired of eating chicken or Jack was puzzled by what Jill said. A preposition taken together with the noun phrase or nominal clause that follows it is called a “prepositional phrase”

• The most common prepositions are one-syllable words such as “on” and “in.” but many such as “between” and “below” have two syllables. There are also many two-word prepositions such as “ahead of” and “together with.”

• Conjunctions are similar to prepositions in that they too play the role of connecting parts of a sentence to one another. It is not surprising, therefore that some words function as both prepositions and conjunctions. For example in Jack spoke to Sam after the meeting, after is a preposition but in After Jack left, Sam phoned Jill it is a conjunction. However many conjunctions, such as when cannot be used as prepositions and many prepositions, such as by cannot be used as conjunctions. In some cases there is disagreement on this matter even between educated native-speakers of English. For example, some people think Sam admitted that Jack is a harder worker than him, where than is used as a preposition is acceptable but others do not. Similarly, some think that it is all right to say Jill complained that Jack didn’t love her like he used to where ‘like’ is used as a conjunction is all right, but many others would disagree.

• Prepositions are used in prepositional verbs such as “listen to” and “look at” (When such a verb has an object, a preposition must be placed between it and the object. When such a verb does not have an object, a preposition is not used. For example, Jill listened to Sam all night but Jill listened all night.)

• Many of the words used as adverb particles (e.g“out” and “over”) in forming phrasal verbs are also used as prepositions.