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Saturday, 26 July 2008


A preposition is a word that’s used to describe when or how a specific action takes place in a sentence. The most common prepositions in the English language are: for, in, of, on, and to. When used properly, these words lend depth and strength to your verbs and make it clear how each part of the sentence ties together. Unfortunately, if you don’t use prepositions properly, they can make your sentences appear tedious and difficult to understand.

Prepositions to Describe Where Action Takes Place

Consider a situation where you want to describe a cat lapping milk in your kitchen. Depending on how you want to write the sentence, you might use a different preposition to link the cat’s action and where it is taking place. For example, you might write the following: “My cat, Charlie was lapping up milk in the kitchen”. Or, you might want to try “My cat, Charlie was sitting on the kitchen floor lapping up milk”. Even though these two sentences convey similar information, each preposition – “in” versus “on” – requires a different sentence structure in order to flow properly.

In other instances, prepositions may be used to create a sense of how much one object is influenced by the subject of a sentence. Words like “throughout”, “marginally”, and “somewhat” are often used in these kinds of situations. If you’re trying to describe how many dandelions are on your lawn, you could say, “My lawn is somewhat covered by dandelions”, or “There are dandelions throughout my front lawn”.

The Preposition “Of” and Ownership

Many people trying to learn English have a difficult time translating the word “of”. Among other things, it’s important to realize that “of” does not convey the meaning of ownership in English sentences. For example, if you want to say that Mary owns a book in English, you would simply write “Mary’s book”. This is distinctly different from Spanish and other romance languages, where you would say “el libro de Mary”, or literally “the book of Mary”.

“For” and “On” as Timing Descriptions

Prepositions can also be used to describe a general period of time. You might hear someone say, “You can borrow this book for one day”, or “On Monday, I will go to the post office”. While these types of prepositions may seem unnecessary, they still give the sentence a subtle flavor. They also serve to help someone that is listening or reading to focus on the fact that information about the timing of an event is about to be transmitted.

In many cases, when you’re learning your primary language, prepositions seem to fit naturally into your speech and writing patterns. Unfortunately, when you’re trying to learn a second language with different prepositional rules, you’ll likely find that you need to think carefully about how you use them. Depending on the rules of your primary language, you might find it fairly easy to adapt to English. When in doubt, try different prepositions in a sentence to see how you can create the same meaning with different words and structures.

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