Prepositions are small words that get you in, on, to, with, and over where you want to be. But prepositions don’t have to be small to be helpful — from within, in addition to, according to, and over the rainbow are also types of prepositions. These words help to connect nouns and pronouns in a sentence, so you don’t end up saying, “I sat the chair” or some other gibberish.
Prepositions show the relationship between two parts of a sentence. Without prepositions, sentences would consist of nouns and verbs, but no words to show their position or location.
Prepositions can establish a noun’s place, time, direction, or connection to an idea.
- Incorrect: The dog sat the pillow. (How are the dog and pillow connected?)
- Correct: The dog sat on the pillow. (on shows the placement relationship between dog and pillow)
- Incorrect: We live two neighbors. (How are we and the neighbors connected?)
- Correct: We live between two neighbors. (between shows the positional relationship between we and neighbors)
While there are many in English, your sentence may need a more complex type of preposition. That’s where double prepositions, compound prepositions, participle prepositions, and prepositional phrases come in handy. Print off a handy guide to help you remember each of the five types of prepositions.
Simple prepositions are common prepositions that consist of one word. Examples include:
When you use simple prepositions in a sentence, they typically come after a verb and before a direct or indirect object, known as the object of the preposition, to make connections between nouns and pronouns in a sentence (which are underlined below).
- He sat on the chair.
- There is some milk in the fridge.
- She was hiding under the table.
- The cat jumped off the counter.
- Barry drove over the bridge.
- Matilde lost her ring at the beach.
- The book belongs to Anthony.
- They were sitting by the tree.
Double prepositions are two simple prepositions used together, often indicating direction. Some examples include:
- out of
- across from
- from beneath
- next to
Like simple prepositions, double prepositions establish relationships between nouns in a sentence.
- Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess.
- The baby climbed onto the table.
- It is up to us to find the answer.
- The loud noise came from within the stadium.
- She never leaves without her phone.
- Joni sat across from Marie.
- The caterpillar turned into a butterfly.
- I was unable to get out of the appointment.
Compound prepositions (also called complex prepositions) are a type of compound word that consists of a simple preposition and another part of speech. Common examples are:
- in addition to
- in consideration of
- according to
- in spite of
- under cover of
- in front of
- on behalf of
- in the middle of
Compound prepositions are helpful ways to establish more complex relationships between nouns.
- I attended the meeting on behalf of my company.
- We were in the middle of the storm.
- He has gym class in addition to his regular classes today.
- In consideration of your feelings, I’ve decided not to resign.
- The burglar stole the money under cover of darkness.
- My car is parked in front of the mailbox.
- I got the job in spite of my inexperience.
- The weather will be good this weekend, according to Tom.
Participle prepositions are verbs that function like prepositions. They have -ed, -ing, and -en endings, just like participial adjectives. Examples of participle prepositions include:
Even though participle prepositions don’t look like ordinary prepositions, they still function by establishing relationships between nouns and pronouns in the sentence (and are usually located right between them).
- She is interested in anything concerning horses.
- He works one job during the day and another at night.
- Given that we’re moving, we don’t need new patio furniture.
- All the neighbors were there, including Mr. Miller.
- The principal was asking questions regarding her behavior.
- Considering his age, he did a great job.
- He was frustrated at the situation.
- The teacher said no talking during class.
Prepositional phrases are groups of words that include a preposition, an object, and the object's modifier. They function just like every other preposition, even though they might be several words long. Examples include:
- on time
- at home
- before class
- on the floor
- in my room
- through the tunnel
- over the bridge
- with my friends
Simple prepositions, double prepositions, compound prepositions, and participle prepositions can all appear in prepositional phrases.
- We hiked through the forest.
- The baseball game was canceled given the forecast of rain.
- John grabbed his homework from within his backpack.
- The children loved the gifts from their grandparents.
- He succeeded with a little help.
- We met to discuss the project about European explorers.
- She left muddy footprints on the clean floor.
- According to his wishes, his funeral will be private.
Prepare for prepositions! Identify which type of preposition each bolded word is in the sentences below.
- He left in search of his fortune.
- It’s okay to bring your own bags into the store.
- Did you buy this ice cream for me?
- Don’t talk during the test.
- Let’s go on tour with our favorite band.
- Including my brother, there are ten people coming to the party.
- Kayla succeeded in the face of adversity.
- I’m not going to the game without you.
- With respect to my opponent's opinion, I must disagree.
- This big gift is from Tisha’s parents.
In which category does each preposition belong?
- He left in search of his fortune. (Compound preposition)
- It’s okay to bring your own bags into the store. (Double preposition)
- Did you buy this ice cream for me? (Simple preposition)
- Don’t talk during the test. (Participle preposition)
- Let’s go on tour with our favorite band. (Prepositional phrase)
- Including my brother, there are ten people coming to the party. (Participle preposition)
- Kayla succeeded in the face of adversity. (Compound preposition)
- I’m not going to the game without you. (Double preposition)
- With respect to my opponent's opinion, I must disagree. (Prepositional phrase)
- This big gift is from Tisha’s parents. (Simple preposition)