Hello! Was Part 1A of Confused by Prepositions useful in improving your understanding of prepositions? Do you still remember what the various functions of prepositions are? Here is a quick recapitulation!
Purpose and Means
Possession and Interaction
Indication of Relation
Part 1B of today’s blog post will centre on explaining how the same preposition is used in different scenarios. In addition, I will also be sharing some simple activities that you can do with your child to help him/her understand the different usages of prepositions.
1. Position vs Direction
Many young learners are confused by the different uses of preposition. The main difference between the two is that positional prepositions only tell you where an object, person or animal is in relation to another object, person or animal. Directional preposition, in contrast, is used to tell us the direction of a movement.
Let’s look at the following example to understand what I am talking about.
2. “above”, “on” and “over”
For some young learners, these prepositions are confusing because they may seem to be similar.
One simple way to understand the difference is to use simple props like a cup and the table. Instead of telling young learners that the cup touches the table for “on” and the cup does not touch the table for “above”, it will be clearer to show the difference with visuals like the pictures below.
And for “over”, other than explaining that it requires a person, animal or object to move from one side of an obstacle, such as a wall, to the other side. It will be better to show the movement using toys like the ones shown in the picture. Besides, this will also add a bit of fun to the lesson.
3.“at Christmas” versus “on Christmas Day”
“At” is usually used to refer to a specific point in time and also for special occasions. In this case, we are talking about Christmas. However, “on” is used to refer to a particular special day. Hence, we say “on Christmas DAY”.
4. “in two years” versus “for two years”
At the start of this blog post series, I shared that some students are confused when they use “in two years’ time” versus “for two years”. There is a difference in meaning as “in two years’ time” refers to a specific time from now.
This is a great contrast to the usage of “for two years” which indicates that an action or a situation is taking place during this specified amount of time.
i. The construction of this building will be completed in two years’ time. (= construction will be completed two years from now)
ii. We have been constructing this building for two years. (= construction is taking place during these two years. It is not known when the construction will be completed.)
5. “by 7 o’clock” versus “at 7 o’clock”
Likewise, “by 7 o’clock” has a different meaning from “at 7 o’clock”. “by 7 o’clock” is used to indicate that an action or an event has to be completed before a certain time. In contrast, “at 7 o’clock” is used to indicate that an action or event would occur at a specific time.
i. I end work at 7 o’clock. (= I can leave when it is 7 o’clock)
ii. Please complete your work by 7 o’clock. (= work has to be finished before this time)
Therefore, we use different prepositions with the same descriptions to convey different meanings.
For some younger learners, verbal explanation might be difficult for them to understand. To let your child understand the different usage of “at 7 o’clock” and “by 7 o’clock”, you may assign him/her a task to be completed by 7 o’clock and do an activity at 7 o’clock.
For example: Clean up your room by 7 o’clock. Dinner starts at 7 o’clock.
6. The different uses of “in”
If you take a look at the use of “in”, you will realise that “in March/1999/autumn” has the meaning of during that period of time. It has a different meaning from “in two years’ time” which refers to a specific time from now.
To help young children understand the difference, you may show your child an analogue clock/watch and tell him/her, “We are leaving our home in an hour.” Next, get your child to tell you what’s the exact time you are going to leave the house. If your child gets the wrong answer e.g. thinking that you are leaving at one o’clock, explain that you are leaving one hour from now and show him/her what that means with a clock. This activity can be replicated by using a calendar to test your child’s understanding of other units of time, such as “in three days” or “in four months” etc.
7. “by” versus “with”
Recall that “by” talks about how people and animals do things. I have been asked when do we use “by” and when do we “with” since the latter is frequently used when we give
information about how things are done too. To understand their differences, let us look at the following examples.
Wipe your nose with a tissue.
Mother fixed the broken handle with glue.
While “with” in these sentences also introduce the means to do something, “with” introduces the object that is used by our hands for the action. That is why we cannot say:
“I came to school with bus.”
Get your child to form simple sentences after explanation to reinforce their understanding of when”by” and “for” are used. It is all right that your child imitates the structure of your examples. Imitation is an essential process before they are able to construct sentences on his/her own.
Are prepositions less confusing for you right now? Don’t forget to try out the activities with your child. They are especially effective for young English learners. What has been covered so far are targeted at lower primary English learners. Another blog post that centres on dependent prepositions will be published for older primary students. Do look out for it!^-^
1. Over 30 bite-size video lessons!
2. Unique strategies to tackle a wide range of grammar topics e.g. subject-verb agreement, neither/either type questions, collective nouns etc.
3. Targeted at P5 to P6 pupils (Or just anyone who wishes to have a good grasp of grammar rules!)