Prepositions

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In English Language, some words express the relationship between a noun or a pronoun and other parts of a sentence.
The relationship be; time relationship, position relationship, direction relationship among others.
For example; ‘Ayisha placed the book on the table’, the word ‘on‘ provides some relationship between ‘table’ and ‘book’. It expresses the position of the book(noun) in relation to the table(also, noun).
Words that provide this and other kinds of relationship are called prepositions.

Meaning of preposition

A preposition is a word that expresses or shows the relationship between a noun or a pronoun and another word(usually, another noun or pronoun) in a sentence. The noun or the pronoun that comes after the preposition is known as object of the preposition.

Examples; in, on, at, under, below, beneath, around, according to, by virtue of, abstain from, in order to etc.

Usage Examples

i. The cat is under the table. under – shows the position of the cat (noun) in relation to the table (noun)

ii. The man arrived at dawn. at – shows the time the man (noun) arrived in relation to dawn (noun).

Types of prepositions

There are two types of prepositions;

a. Simple prepositions
b. Complex prepositions

A. Simple preposition; These are prepositions that are made of single (one) words.
Examples include; in, on, of, for, by, at, to, with, into, onto, from, off, down, up, until, since, among, against, between, toward, through, above, over, along, after, during etc.

Categories of simple prepositions

Depending on the kind of relationship a preposition expresses or indicates, simple prepositions can be categorised into;

A. Preposition of time; These are prepositions that indicate or express the time relationship between a noun or a pronoun and other parts of sentences. Examples include; at, in, on, during, since, until etc.

At – This preposition is used to indicate specific and short times of the day.
Example; The boy left at dawn.

In – This preposition is used to indicate months, years and specific times of the day in relation to time.

Usage Examples;

i. We did the work in December (month)

ii. He was born in 1974 (year)

iii. We left there in the morning. (specific time of the day in relation to time)

On – This preposition is used to indicate dates and days.

Usage Examples;

I. Ghana gained independence on 6th March, 1957. (date)

II. We went to church on Sunday. (day)

For – It is used to indicate duration of time.

Usage example;
The man has stayed here for five years. (duration)

Since – It is used to indicate an activity or a continuous event originating from a specific point in the past.

Usage examples;

i. He left here since last year. (an activity originating from a specific period in the past).

ii. The lady has been crying since yesterday. ( a continuous event originating from the past).

During – It is used to indicate silmultaneous events, that is events that occur at the same time (concurrently).

Usage Examples

i. We ate the food during the match. (it means the food was eaten the same time the match was played)

ii. The children played during the class work.

By – It is used to indicate a specific point in the future before which an event occurs or happens.

Usage example;
The meeting will commence by ten O’clock.

Until – It is used to indicate a continuous event that will terminate or that terminated at a specific point.

Usage example;
They were singing until he came.

B. Prepositions of place; These are simple prepositions that indicate the place or positional relationship between a noun or a pronoun and other parts of sentences. Examples include; at, in, on, between, behind etc.

At – It is used to indicate specific points or locations.
E.g I saw the man at Jubilee Park.

On – It is used to indicate when one thing is on the surface or on top of another.
E.g The book is on the table.

In – It is used to indicate or when something is inside an enclosed space.
E.g The cup is in the fridge.

Between – It is used to indicate when something is in the middle of two things or people.
E.g John sits between Ama and Mary.

C. Prepositions of direction or movement; These are simple prepositions that indicate the directional relationship between a noun or a pronoun and the other parts of a sentence. Examples include; to, from, over, along, across etc.

To – It is used to indicate movement with a specific aim, direction or destination.
E.g He went to Accra last week.

From – It is used to indicate movement with a specific point of origin.
E.g They threw the stones from the backyard.

Over – It is used to indicate movement above or higher than another.
E.g Messi kicked the ball over the bar.

Along – It is used to indicate movement on a straight line or an edge.
E.g The children walked along the street.

Around – It is used to indicate movement in a circular direction.
E.g The athletes ran around the field.

Towards – It is used to indicate movement closer to something.
E.g The teacher walked towards the laboratory.

D. Prepositions of purpose or reason; These are prepositions that show the relationship between nouns and pronouns and other parts of sentences by stating the reason something will occur or has occurred. E.g for, because of, from etc.

Usage Examples
i. The man bought a car because of ladies

ii. They won the game from experience.

E. Prepositions of agency; These are prepositions that show the relationship between nouns and pronouns and other parts of sentences by stating the agent. E.g by, with.
Note; Prepositions of agency are usually used in agented passive sentences.

Usage examples;

i. The lion and the Jewel was written by Wole Soyinka.

ii. The children were filled with anxiety.

F. Prepositions of origin; These are prepositions that show the relationship between nouns and pronouns and other parts of sentences by indicating origin. E.g from, of.

Usage Examples;
i. I met a professor from Nigeria last week.

ii. The man is of African descent.

G. Prepositions of connection; These are prepositions that show the relationship between nouns and pronouns and other parts of sentences by indicating connection. E.g of, to, with etc.

Usage Examples;

I. She talks to everyone

II. I have lived with many people

III. The children of our parents are united

H. Prepositions of instrument/device; These are prepositions that show the relationship between nouns or pronouns and other parts of sentences by indicating the instrument or device. E.g by, with, on

Usage Examples

I. The president came by car

II. The hunter killed the lion with a gun

III. I stored the number on my phone

Prepositional Adverbs

There are some prepositions that can be used as adverbs. It is very important to note the difference when these words are used as prepositions or adverbs.
When they are used as prepositions, there is always a noun or a pronoun that comes after the preposition (also known as object of the preposition).
However, when these words are used as adverbs, there is no noun nor pronoun after them.

Usage Examples;

Adverb – The children were waiting outside.

Preposition – The children were waiting outside the house.

Adverb – The children played around.

Preposition – The children played around the house.

Contrasting Closely Related Simple Prepositions

a. For & Since

For is used to indicate duration of time, whereas since is used to indicate a continuous event or duration of time originating from a specific point (time) in the past.

Let’s look at these two examples;

i. The man has been here………..two weeks.

ii. The man has been here………….last two weeks.

We observe that in the first example is indicating only duration of the man’s stay and nothing else, so we will have;
The man has been here for two weeks.

However, the second example is telling us the duration of the man’s stay, and has gone further to state that his stay has continued to the present time with the expression ‘last two weeks’. That means, he began to stay here last two weeks and is still here.
Hence, we will have;
The man has been here since last two weeks.

Note; When since is used to indicate duration of time originating from the past, the word ‘last’ always comes before an expression indicating time (duration) e.g He did the work since last week, he has been playing football since last ten years.
Also, when it is used to express duration of time originating from the past, a day a month or a year always comes after it. E.g
He has been here since Wednesday/February/2010.

b. Beside & Besides

Beside means next to, close to or at the side of. It places two nouns physically side by side.

Usage examples;
i. She places her Bible beside her bed every night.

ii. Ama sits beside John in class.

Besides means in addition to, apart from something or moreover.

Usage Examples;

i. I have an exercise book besides these three.

ii. John was sacked in school for misconduct, besides he didn’t pay his school fees.

c. Between & Among

Between is used when talking about two things or people.
E.g The money was shared between the two boys.

Among is used when talking about three or more things or people.
E.g The money was shared among the triplets.

d. Across & over

Across means from one side to the other side of, usually, on the ground or a horizontal surface.
E.g The athletes ran across the field.

Over means higher than, above, usually, vertical to the ground.
E.g The plane flew over the field.

Prepositional errors

It is common in our everyday usage of the language to commit prepositional errors because a single preposition can serve multiple purposes.

A. In vs On – medium in which something is seen.

In – It is used when something appears in printed media. E.g article, magazine, book, newspaper etc.

Usage Examples;

i. I read the story in the Daily Graphic.

ii. I saw the picture in the book.

On – It is used when something appears on digital or electronic device.

Usage Examples;

i. I read the story on my computer

ii. I saw on the Television

iii. I stored his contact on my phone.

b. In v At – performance

When we want to describe how well someone does something, we usually use the phrase; is good followed by at. However if we use the phrase does well, then we will use in.

Usage Examples

i. The man is good at fractions

ii. They are good at English

iii. The women do well in mathematics.

iv. He does well in English.

B. Complex prepositions; These are prepositions that are made of more than one word.
I did the work because of you.

Examples of complex prepositions;
According to, in accordance with, abide by, comply with, agreeably to, advise against, in reference to, along with, on behalf of, abstain from etc.

Contrasting Closely Related Complex Prepositions

a. Apologise to vs Apologise for

Apologise to someone; we apologise to a person.

Usage Examples;
i. John apologised to the police.

ii. The teacher apologised to the students.

Apologise for something. We apologise for something.

Usage Examples

i. The teacher apologised for the delay.

ii. John apologised for his misconduct.

b. Accountable to vs Accountable for

Accountable to someone. In an organization, there is always a superior (leader) who oversees the work of the subordinates. The subordinates in return account to the superior.

Usage Examples

i. All the ministers are accountable to the president.

ii. The teachers are accountable to the headteacher.

Accountable for something; We are accountable for the things we do.

Usage Examples

i. John is accountable for the misconduct of the students.

ii. The bank manager is to be held accountable for the losses the bank made.

Note; Accountable for and accountable to are synonymous to responsible for and responsible to respectively.

c. Angry with vs Angry at

Angry with; this expression pertains to a person. We are angry with someone.
E.g Mary is angry with her boyfriend.

Angry at; anger towards something.
E.g The man was angry at the car.

However, some linguists are of the view that when anger towards a person is unidirectional, such that only one person feels angry towards the other, but the other does not feel same in return, angry at be used.
E.g The woman is angry at the husband.
In any case, are we there to know that the husband does not feel same in return?
The best is to use;
The woman is angry with the husband.

d. Suffer from vs die of – sickness

We suffer from a sickness, however, we die of a sickness, and not die from malaria.

Usage Examples

i. John suffered from malaria last year.

ii. Mary died of malaria last week.

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