Preposition Rules and Usage with Examples

The common run of prepositions usually establishes a space or time relationship between ideas within a phrase, clause, or sentence, and they can be divided into five groups.

  1. The prepositions of place and location: “in”, “at”, and “on”.
  2. The prepositions of motion: “to”, “toward”, “in”, and “into”. 
  3. The prepositions of movement and direction: “to”, “onto”, and “into”.
  4. The prepositions for specific points of time: “on”, “at”, “in”, and “after”.
  5. The prepositions for periods or extended time” “since”, “for”, “by”, “from…to”, “from…until”, “before”, “during”, “within”, “between” and “beyond”.

Rules for usage

Prepositions that establish relationships in space.

The prepositions “in”, “at”, and “on” for indicating place and location. The general rule is to use “in” for an enclosed space, “at” for a point, and “on” for a surface.

Here are some specific guidelines for their use in English.

Use “in” for spaces

For example, 

  • They always meet in a secret room (in a suburban hotel, in a parking lot, in a farm, in a rice field).

Use “in” for names of specific land areas.

For example,

  • She lives in Prague (in Rome in Southern Area, in Northern Area, in the Phillippines, in Southeast Asia).

Use “in” for bodies of water.

That kind of fish thrives in freshwater (in the river, in the lake, in streams, in the sea).

Use “in” for lines

For example,

The registrants are in a row (in a line, in a queue).

Use “at” to indicate points.

For example,

You will find us at the entrance (at the taxi stand, at the supermarket, at the intersection).

Use “at” for specific addresses.

For example,

She live at Frydek-Mistek. 

Use “on” for names of streets, roads, avenues, and boulevards.

For example, 

His apartment is on 6-Avenue Street (on Ortigas Avenue, on Santolan Road, on Roxas Boulevard).

Use “on” for surfaces.

For example,

There is a large stain on the floor (on the wall, on the ceiling, on the roof).

Usage and examples of prepositions “in”, “at”, and “on” for indicating the location.

Use “in” in these cases.

For example,

The children are in the kitchen (in the garden, in the car, in the library, in the class, in school).

Use “at” in for small places.

For example,

She was at home (at the library, at the office, at school, at work), when we arrived.

Use “on” in these particular cases.

For example,

They are on the place (on the train, on the boat). 

Some locations, though, don’t need  a preposition between them and the verb. For example, They sleep downstairs. (inside, outside, downtown, upstairs, uptown).

Some common prepositional usage

A preposition may be defined as connecting word showing the relation of a noun or a noun substitute to some other word in the sentence (the squirrel in the tree, the preposition in shows the relationship between the squirrel and the tree.)

Over ninety percent of preposition usage involves these nine prepositions

  • With
  • At
  • By
  • To
  • In
  • For
  • From
  • Of
  • On

Prepositions cause problems because sometimes they can be used interchangeably.

For example, He sat on the chair (He sat in the chair).

Because prepositions are often combined with verbs to create phrasal verbs (to look after someone, to look down on someone), and because a single preposition can be used to express several different ideas.


  • He is tall for his age.
  • I swam for an hour.

Uses of Common Prepositions

Prepositions are used to express a number of relationships, including time, location, manner, means, quantity, purpose, and state or condition. The following outline demonstrates the uses of common prepositions.

Preposition of Time Sentences

AboutI reached there at about noon.
AfterTeams shall take lunch after the game.
He will start his work after lunch.
He stops working after three o’clock.
AtHe shall return at five o’clock
He met me at last.
ByHe shall go to home by midnight.
ForHe sat there for an hour.
FromWe work from Monday to Friday.
InShe rises early in the morning.
Admission starts in the fall every year.
He visited Prague in 2011.
OfIt is now a quarter of three.
OnI shall come on time.
PastIt is a quarter past nine. (15 minutes after)
ToIt is quarter to five. (15 minutes before)

Preposition of Place and Direction Sentences

AroundShe walked around the car.
AtThey are at home.
He smiled at her.
We were at the restaurant.
DownThey lived down the hall.
FromWe immigrated from Peru in 1996.
The restaurant is one mile from here.
InHe lives in the trailer.
We waited in the bus.
InsidePut it inside the house.
OfWe moved south of our home.
OnWe sat on the ocean pier.
She left on the train.
ThroughThey drove through the tunnel.
ToWe went to Uraguay. 
Give it to me.
UpHe walked up the stairs.
WithHe went with me.

Preposition of Means or Agent Examples

ByHe was hit by a ball.
She came by train.
The gift came by special delivery.
He did it by hard work.
He got there by swimming.
FromHi success results from careful planning.
InHe takes pleasure in it.
OnThey live on bread and water.
WithHe chased the mongoose with a stick.

Preposition of Manner Examples

ByBy doing it yourself, you save time.
InHe left in confusion.
The room was in a turmoil.
You can do it in a day.
LikeHe look like a hero.
OnI swear it on my word of honor.
WithHe ate it with a fork.

Preposition of State or Condition Examples

AtMy friend is at work.
ByThey are by themselves (alone).
InHe is in a state of confusion.
OnHe is on duty.
For I mistook you for someone else.
AsI see her as a good person.

Preposition of Quantity or Measure Examples

ForWe drove for twenty miles.
We bought it for ten cents.
ByWe bought them by the kilo.

Preposition of Purpose Example

ForHe bought it for an emergency.
She went to the city for sightseeing.
He loved her for her thoughtfulness.

Use of Prepositions after Certain Verbs

  • Account for
  • Agree on (something)
  • Agree with (someone)
  • Apologize to
  • Apply for
  • Approve of
  • Argue with (someone)
  • Ask for
  • Believe in
  • Belong to
  • Blame (someone) for (something)
  • Blame (something) on (someone)
  • Borrow from
  • Call on (upon)
  • Care for
  • Compliment on
  • Come from
  • Consent to
  • Consist of
  • Convince (someone) of (something)
  • Decide on (upon)
  • Depend on (upon)
  • Get rid of
  • Hear about
  • Hear from
  • Hear of
  • Insist on (upon)
  • Invite (someone) to
  • Laugh at
  • Listen for
  • Listen to
  • Look at
  • Look for
  • Look forward to
  • Object to
  • Plan on
  • Provide for 
  • Provide with
  • Recover from
  • Remind (someone) of
  • Search for
  • See about
  • Substitute for
  • Talk about
  • Talk of
  • Think of
  • Wait for
  • Wait on (meaning serve)

Use of Prepositions with Certain Adjectives and in Idiomatic Expressions

  • According to
  • Accustomed to
  • Angry of
  • Content with
  • Dependent on (upon) 
  • Different from (than)
  • Disappointed in
  • Due to
  • Followed by
  • Fond of
  • Have respect for
  • In accordance with
  • Angry at (someone)
  • Angry with (someone)
  • Based on
  • Independent of
  • In regard to
  • Interested in
  • Limited to
  • Married to
  • Proud of 
  • Related to
  • Resulting from
  • Similar to tired of