Are you confused by Prepositions? Prepositions can be mystifying. This article will solve the mystery.

Figuring out nouns and verbs is sort of simple. A  noun is a person, place or thing. A verb is an action or state of being. So, why are prepositions so confusing?

One reason is: prepositions can play several different roles in a sentence. They can explain a noun (act as an adjective) Or they can explain a verb (act as an adverb). Prepositions  don’t always do the same thing in a sentence.

No wonder we get confused. We hope this post will help.

Content of Post

  • What is a preposition
  • A word of caution about prepositions
  • List of prepositions
  • 3 tips for using prepositions

    What are Prepositions?

    A preposition shows the relationship between its object and another word in the sentence. Prepositions are used to specify; when, where, how, and why.

    Prepositions are usually part of a prepositional phrase. We call it a prepositional phrase because a preposition needs a noun (object) to make sense. The noun completes the phrase.

    Example:  Up the street                  Up is the preposition while street is                                                                      the noun.

                      Over the garage            Over is the preposition while Garage is                                                               the noun.

    Other descriptive words can be added between the preposition and the noun.

    Example: Behind the red barn. Behind is the preposition while barn is the noun. Red describes the barn.

     Inside the large box. Inside is the preposition while box is the noun. Large describes the box.

    So now do you understand what a preposition is?

    There are no rules in English about how many prepositional phrases can be put in a single sentence.

    A Word of Cautionprepositions can confuse

    You don’t want to confuse your reader. Sometimes writers will use long strings of prepositional phrases.

    A Czech writer, Bohumil Hrabal, once wrote a novel containing a single sentence. (Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age).

    Sentences stretch prepositions

    Obviously, this can make reading difficult.

    You have a choice when editing. You can break-up sentences with several prepositional phrases into 2 or more sentences. Or you could delete some of the prepositional phrases. It is important to write in a way the reader is not confused by too many prepositional phrases.

    But first you need to recognize a preposition. So here is a list of the most common prepositions.

    List of One Word Prepositions:


     Two word prepositions

    We hope this is not too confusing. But some prepositions are a combination of two or three words.

    According toApart fromAside fromBack toBecause of
    Close toDue toFar fromExcept forInstead of
    Across fromAhead ofAlong SideApart fromAlong With
    As forAside fromBack toBecause ofDown on
    Except forFar fromInside ofInstead ofLeft of
    Near toNext toOpposite ofOpposite toOther than
    Rather thanOut ofOutside ofOwing toPrior
    Regardless of Right ofSuch asThanks toUp to

    Some three word prepositions

    As far asAs soon asAs well asAs opposed toBy virtue of
    In accordance withIn addition to  In case ofIn order toBy means of
    /For lack ofFor lack ofIn addition toFor want ofIn case of
    In front ofIn place ofIn spite ofOn account ofOn behalf of
    On top of With regard toWith Respect toIn view of 

    Two or three word prepositions can act together as a single word in the propositional phrase.

    For a more information see:

    3 Tips For Using Prepositions.

    Tip #1: A prepositional phrase can act as an adjective.

    This may seem complicated but stay with me. These are a few things to keep in mind.

    Remember, adjectives describe nouns or pronouns. As an adjective, the phrase will describes ‘which one’. 

    Example: The girl in the blue dress. The Prepositional phrase tells us which girl.

    Another Example: The building across the street. This propositional phrase tells which building.

    Are you Catching on?

    Tip #2: A prepositional phrase can act as an adverb.

    Remember, adverbs describe verbs. A phrase used as an adverb will tell us – how – where – or when.

    Example. Joe ran between his home and school. (Where)

    A different Example: Joe ran in the morning. (When)

    One more Example: Joe ran with an injured foot. (How)

    Each example describes something about the verb ‘ran’.


    Tip #3: Rule for Prepositions which seem to be Nouns.

    Sometimes the noun in a prepositional phrase seems to be the logical subject of the sentence. That is NEVER so. This becomes important when deciding if the subject is singular or plural, so you know if the verb should be singular or plural.

    Example: Neither of the runners won the race.

    Runners is plural, but not the subject of the sentence. It is part of a prepositional phrase starting with of. Neither is singular and the actual subject of the sentence. So the verb, won should be singular.

    Example: Kate, along with her sisters, enjoyed the dance.

    Sisters (plural) is part of the prepositional phrase starting with along, so the verb must remain singular. Kate not sisters is the subject of the sentence.

    Did you get that?  Are you ready? Try our EXERCISE. It’s easier than you think.

    For more examples, check out:


    We hope this post has helped improve your understanding of  preposition.

    We all are striving to be better writers. With practice you can become a masterful author. You don’t need to know everything immediately. Give yourself time to get there.

    Putting your thoughts and feelings on a blank page can be intimidating. But, there is something magical about the prospect of having your words read by thousands. Only you can make it happen.

     Has this post been helpful? Have you had difficulty understanding prepositions in the past? Tell us about it in comments.

    Try This Preposition Exercise 

     Remember, I said there are no rules for how many prepositional phrases you can put in a single sentence.

    This exercise should be fun. Write a single sentence with as many prepositional phrases as you can think of. It may not be great writing, but you can laugh while creating an interesting sentence!

    Here’s my Example: The farm house is down the road, over a rickety bridge across the brook, around the bend, past the red barn beside the road, behind the general store between the two oak trees, beneath the cliff, near the base of the mountain, past the first stream, but before the second stream, which floods during a heavy rain.

    Now you try it!

    Give us your exercise in comments. 

    Happy Writing, 

    John & Patty 2018

    Claim your List of 27 Crutch Words Today

    One trick we use when editing, is to look for crutch words. These words are so common we don’t think  anything about writing them. We look for these 27 words  with every edit.

    By deleting or changing these words our writing becomes stronger.

    If you enjoyed this Creative Writing tip, share it with your friends or writers group.