Preposition - An Overview

What is a Preposition? 

A preposition is a word class that generally works with a noun phrase, and together they compose a prepositional phrase. The preposition links its noun phrase to either a verb phrase or another noun phrase, which means that the prepositional phrase functions either like an adverb or an adjective.

What are the Types of Prepositions?

There are various types of relations expressed by prepositions. In this page, only the general functional types of prepositions will be discussed such as prepositions denoting space, time, instrument and cause. 

1. Preposition of Space

Prepositions of spatial relations refer chiefly to dimensional orientation such as point, line or surface, and area or volume. 

  • Point: I left my slippers at the doorstep. 
  • Line: I left my purse on the road. 
  • Surface: I left my purse on the the table. 
  • Area: I saw your purse in the field. 
  • Volume: I hid my purse inside the box.  

2. Preposition of Time

Prepositions of time describe only two dimension-types of time sphere, point of time and period of time. 

  • Point of Time: at ten o'clock, at that time, at noon, in summer, in the year that followed, in the eighteenth century, on Friday, on the following day, on New Year's Day, since five o'clock, two months ago, four months from now
  • Period of Time: throughout  the summer, for years, for ages, during lunch, during the whole meeting, till end of September, by the end of the month, between 5 and 6 o'clock

3. Preposition of Means and Instrument

Prepositional phrases of means and instrument answer the question "How". 

  • Examples: by bus/train/car/boar, with a stone/confidence/flying colors, through the wormhole/manhole

4. Preposition of Cause/Purpose 

Some prepositions express cause, motive, reason and purpose. Prepositional phrases that belong to the Cause/Purpose spectrum commonly answer the question "Why".

  •  Examples: because of heavy rain, on account of her experience, for drunk driving, from exposure and lack of food, out of duty

Other common prepositions or prepositional phrases such as of (used to denote "having") and in spite of (preposition of concession) will be discussed in more detail in the next lessons.


  • The Teacher's Grammar Book (2nd Edition) by James D. Williams (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, London, 2005)
  • A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik (Longman Group Ltd., 1985)
Designed by Neil Yamit