PSLE Grammar | Confused By Prepositions? Part 1A

How have you been? I hope you have found the previous blog post useful in your usage of nouns. Today, I’m going to talk about a different class of words — prepositions!

Prepositions are a group of words in English which many students have issues with. For lower primary students, they are confused by the need to use different prepositions to convey different meanings, even when the detail is the same. An example of this would be “in two years’ time” and “for two years”. The main details are the same but with a different preposition, the meanings are different.

Upper primary students, on the other hand, are often confused by dependent prepositions that follow verbs, adjectives and nouns such as “conform to“, “aware of” and “attitude towards” that often do not have a pattern in their usage.

As prepositions are often tested in the sections of Grammar MCQ, Editing and Grammar Cloze, it is essential for us to know them well. Therefore, this blog post will be divided into specific parts to address different problems faced by lower and upper primary students.

Part 1 of this blog post addresses issues encountered by lower primary students in their use of prepositions. To do so, we need to understand the basic functions of prepositions. They are:

  1. Position

  2. Direction

  3. Time

  4. Purpose and Means

  5. Possession and Interaction

  6. Indication of Relation

Let’s go through each one of them now!

1. Position

1. Position. PSLE Grammar | Confused By Prepositions?

2. Direction

2. Direction. PSLE Grammar | Confused By Prepositions?

3. Time

3. Time. PSLE Grammar | Confused By Prepositions?

4. Purpose and Means

“By” and “for” have more than one function. Let us look at the following examples to understand what I am referring to.

i. I came to school by bus. (=bus is the mode of transportation I take to travel)

ii. He learns English by watching movies. (=movie watching is the method he uses to learn English)

iii. Beer is brewed by fermentation. (= fermentation is the process used to brew beer)

In these three sentences, “by” is used to introduce the means to accomplish an objective. Each objective is presented by the verb and the noun in each sentence.

(e.g. A -> came, school, B-> learns, English & C-> beer, brewed)

However, to simplify the explanation for young children, it may be explained that “by” talks about how people and animals do things.

iv. I bought a book for Jane. (=book is purchased because of Jane)

v. I will cook for my father on his birthday. (=cooking is done because of father’s birthday)

vi. Put the dishes in the sink for washing. (=place the dishes in the sink so that I can wash them)

These three sentences, on the other hand, show that “for” is used to introduce the purpose for an action (e.g. D-> bought, E-> cook & F-> put). Nevertheless, when we explain to young children, it will be good to explain “for” as a word that tells us why people and animals do things.

5. Possession and Interaction

The second last preposition that we are going to talk about in this blog post is the use of “with”.

i. I like the dog with brown fur.

ii. Pass this book to that girl with ponytails.

“With” is used to show possession in these two sentences. In simpler terms, “with” tells us what people, animals, things and places have.

iii. Daddy plays frisbee with me every Sunday.

iv.  Stop arguing with him!

v. Where are you going? I will come with you.

In these three sentences, “with” is used to show interaction between two parties (animals or people). It is important to take note that “with” does not have the same meaning as “and”. This is because “and” does not necessarily indicate interaction e.g. Daddy plays frisbee and me every Sunday (The meaning has changed entirely!).

6. Indication of Relation (father of Jane, a province of China)

“Of” is the last preposition that I will be discussing in this blog post. “Of” is of great importance because it is used to indicate relation between two or more entities that can be nouns, noun phrase (possessive pronoun + noun) or numbers.

i. Xi Jinping is the Chairman of China.

ii. Laura is the prefect of my school. (my school = possessive pronoun + noun)

iii. I like the colour of his hair. (his hair = possessive pronoun + noun)

iv. Works of Shakespeare have become international classics.

v. The destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres of forest in Australia is a great loss.

In sentences i to v, the connections between/among underlined entities are made by using “of” in each of the sentences.

Note! “Of” can be used more than once in a sentence to indicate multiple relations as shown by example v. It often appears as tricky questions during exams.

Thank you for staying with me till the end! ^-^/ In my next blog post, I am going to highlight to you the common confusion which many lower primary students face when using the above prepositions. In addition, I will be suggesting some simple activities that you can do with your child to clarify some of these confusions. Do look out for the next post!



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