matchmaker prepositions

The ‘Matchmaker’ of English: Prepositions

Hello, everyone! I’m Mr Ng Guo Liang, an English Language Curriculum Specialist and Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. In this post, I’d like to give an introduction to something we like to call the ‘Matchmaker’ of English: Prepositions! You’d most definitely have heard your English teacher mention prepositions at least once before.

The blank look I often get from my students whenever I mention the word ‘preposition’ tells me that this is something they do not yet understand. Although ‘Prepositions’ might sound very technical and difficult to understand when you first hear the term, they are actually surprisingly easy to grasp and comprehend. You only really need to understand what they are used for, and memorise them!


What are Prepositions?

So what are prepositions? Prepositions are words we use to create and show relationships between words in English. ‘Relationships between words?’ you might ask — yes, they do exist! Let’s look at a simple example:

The apple is on the table.

In this sentence, the word ‘on’ is a preposition. Can you tell what purpose it serves? It serves to tell us the relationship that the apple has with regard to the table. The preposition ‘on’ tells us the location of the apple, which happens to be found on the table.

If you remove the word ‘on’, all that we are left with are two nouns: the apple and the table. Do you see that without the preposition, they are isolated from one another and share no relationship with each other at all? Once you insert the preposition ‘on’, a ‘relationship’ is created between the apple and the table — we say that a relationship of space (location/place/position) is created between the words.


The Most Common Relationships Created Using Prepositions

There are many different types of relationships that prepositions can create in English. We are however, only going to mention the most common relationships we use in English: relationships of space, time, and accompaniment.

Prepositions that Create Relationships of Space

Prepositions of space are perhaps the most common prepositions we use in our everyday speech and communication. They tell us the location/place/position of people or things. Some examples are:

  • She was beside/behind/in front of me.
  • The apple is on/under the table.
  • They sat opposite one another.
  • You can find the shop along the path.
  • You can find it outside/inside the building.
  • I sat between them during assembly.

Prepositions that Create Relationships of Time

Prepositions of time are also another very common type of preposition we use in our everyday communication. These are usually used to tell us when events take place. For example:

  • I’ll be there at noon.
  • The restaurant is open during the day.
  • They met in 2008.
  • I read up on prepositions before/after I had my lunch.
  • I’ve not spoken to him since I left the company.

Prepositions that Create Relationships of Accompaniment

We typically use prepositions of accompaniment to show who people were with at a particular point in time, place or event; or to show who was or will not be present at a particular point in time, place or event. The most common examples are:

  • I was at the park with my wife.
  • We’ll just have to go without you then.
  • She arrives at the ball in company with her husband.
  • He was in the company of the most brilliant scientists in the world.

Space, time, and accompaniment are the most common relationships that we typically use prepositions to create in English. As mentioned earlier, there are many other functions and types of relationships that prepositions create in English. The best thing about prepositions is that there is actually a finite and limited number of them! So you can actually do a search on them online and memorise them (or most of them!).

This brings us to the end of this post. I hope that you now understand what prepositions are, and will no longer be confused when your English teacher talks about them.

Thanks, and on behalf of the Lil’ but Mighty family, stay happy, stay safe, and stay healthy!


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mr ng
Mr. Ng

Mr Ng firmly believes that there is a strong correlation between effort and eventual success, and that finding success in English is something that is attainable by all of his students regardless of their background and starting point. He has a strong love and passion for the language and hopes to inspire that same passion in his students through his lessons. That being said, he looks forward to bringing out the best in his students and guiding them to fulfil the potential they all have.

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