Usage: At, on, in:
At, on and in are prepositions of place and show the position of people, places and things:
e.g. at the cinema on the wall in the shop
at + the + place: the cinema, theatre, school, BBE, cross roads etc.. e.g. at the bank.
at + specific place: Heathrow Airport, Buckingham Palace: e.g. at Notre Dame Cathedral.
at + specific address including the house number/name: e.g. at 33 rue de La Fayette, Paris.
N.B. In English, at is not normally used with names of villages, towns and cities.
on + a/the + surface of a place or object: shelf, wall, floor, ceiling etc.. e.g. on the table.
on + the directions: left/right/other side/nearside/far side: e.g. on the left.
on + levels of a building: first floor, second floor, top floor etc.. e.g. on the ground floor.
on + the + parts of a ship: port side/ starboard side/bow/stern.
on + parts of the body: his foot, her leg, our heads etc.. e.g. on his left arm.
on + a/the + types of transport: horse, bicycle, train, foot etc.. e.g. on the ferry, on a horse.
N.B. English people say in a car ( not on a car ).
in + names of countries: France, England, Poland etc.. e.g. in Belgium.
in + names of towns, villages, cities: Warsaw, London etc.. e.g. in Brussels.
in + named places: Buckingham Palace, the Louvre etc.. e.g. in Windsor Castle.
in + the + geographical regions: Auvergne, Lake District etc.. e.g. in the Alps.
in + streets, roads, avenues: Moniuszki, Fish Street etc.. e.g. in Stratford Avenue.
in + the + rooms and places: kitchen, bedroom, foyer, auditorium etc.. e.g. in the bathroom.
in + the + weather: sun, rain, hail, snow etc.. e.g. in the fog.
in + parts of the body: his foot, her leg, our heads etc.. e.g. in his foot.
in + a/the + types of transport: car, train, van, lorry, aeroplane, ship e.g. in a train.
A: In English, certain expressions are different, so must be learnt!
at the moment on holiday in a loud/angry/quiet/low voice
at this/that moment on the radio in a good/bad mood
at the same time on television in a bad temper
at no time on the menu in a suit
at present on the agenda in a new dress
at the end/beginning in clean/dirty/new shoes
B: Some expressions are used without a/the, here are some common examples:
at school in bed
at home in business
at school in hospital
at school in prison
at 37 k.p.h.
C: Both on and in can be used for types of transport and parts of the body:
On is used when the part of the body/type of transport is the most important detail.
In is used when position is the most important piece of information.
e.g. Peter travelled to London on the train. – type
John sat in the last carriage of the London train. – position
Joanna has a cut on her left arm. – part of the body
Ania has broken a bone in her wrist. – position in the body
D: At and in can be used with places which can contain large numbers of people: cinema, theatre, church, stadium etc..
At is used when the activity is the most important piece of information.
In is used when the place/position is the most important detail.
e.g. I will meet you for a meal at the usual restaurant.
Richard and Magda met in the foyer of the Royal Theatre.
E: Both at and to can be used with places:
At is used when there is no active movement in the phrase/sentence.
To is used when there is movement in the phrase/sentence
e.g. At school, there are forty teachers and four hundred pupils. – no movement
Marcin is cycling to London to visit his friends. – movement
F: Both at and to can follow certain verbs: the meaning of the verb is different in each case: to throw, run, shout.
e.g. Bill threw a stone to me. ( a friendly action )
Bill threw a stone at me. ( a hostile action: intending to hurt someone )
Maria ran to me. ( a friendly action )
Maria ran at me ( a hostile action: intending to attack )
Eric shouted to me. ( a friendly action )
Eric shouted at me ( a hostile action: intending to express anger )
G: The preposition by is often used with transport when the type of transport is very important: the common examples are: by aeroplane, bicycle, horse, car, ferry, horse, lorry, ship, train
e.g. The businessmen travelled to Africa by aeroplane and in Africa, they travelled by car.
N.B. Walking is travel on foot ( not by foot )
Note: Thanks to world-english.org for the information!
Like a butterfly, or a like bee
Like an ant, as busy as can be
These little words we call the “busy P’s”
Nine or ten of them
Do most all of the work
Of, on, to, with, in, from
By, for, at, over, across
And many others do their jobs,
Which is simply to connect
Their noun or pronoun object
To some other word in the sentence.
If you please.
“On the top is where you are!”
Top relates to where you are.
“With a friend you’ll travel far!”
With a friend you’ll go.
“If you try you know that you can fly
Over the rainbow!”
Over the rainbow is where you can fly.
Always on the go.
Like a bunch of busy bees,
Floating pollen on the breeze.
Buzzing over the meadows,
Beyond the forest,
Through the trees,
In to the beehive.
Busy, busy P’s
In, to, beyond, over, on, through!
Busy prepositions always out in front,
On the edges, in the crack.
‘Round the corner, from the back.
In between the action.
Stating clearly to your satisfaction,
The location and direction.
Prepositions give specific information.
Though little words they are,
They never stand alone
Gathering words behind them,
You soon will see how they have grown
Into a parade; a prepositional phrase.
With a noun, or at least a pronoun, bringing up the rear.
A little phrase of two or three or four or more words.
Prepositions! Attention! Forward, March!
Always on the march.
Like a horde of solider ants,
Inching bravely forward on the slimmest chance
That they might better their positions.
Busy, busy prepositions.
In the air, on the ground, everywhere.
The sun sank lower in the west.
“In the west it sank.”
And it will rise in the morning,
And will bring the light of day;
We say the sun comes up in the east every day!
“In the east it rises.”
Busy, busy, busy!
On the top is where you are!
On the top.
If you try you know that you can fly!
Over the rainbow.
Usage: At, On, In:
These prepositions are used to show the time and date of events, activities and situations:
e.g. at three o’clock. in June. on Monday.
at + particular time: dawn, midday, noon, night, midnight, nine o’clock etc.. e.g. at dawn.
at + the + a particular time in a week/month/year: start/end of the week/month/year, weekend. e.g. at the start of July.
at + calendar festival season: Christmas, New Year, Easter etc.. e.g. at Easter.
at + meal: breakfast, lunch, mid-morning, tea, dinner, supper etc.. e.g. at breakfast.
on + day of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc. e.g. on Thursday.
on + particular part of a day: Friday morning, Saturday afternoon. e.g. on Sunday evening.
on + particular date: 25 July 2001, 4 January. e.g. on 19 March.
N.B. On the nineteenth of March is how this date is read aloud or said in conversation.
on + calendar festival day: Christmas Day, Palm Sunday. e.g. on Easter Sunday.
in + the + a part of a day: the morning, the afternoon, evening. e.g. in the afternoon.
in + month: January, February, March, April, May etc.. e.g. in June.
in + season of the year: Spring, Summer, Autumn. e.g. in Winter.
in + specific year: 1988, 1989, 1990 etc.. e.g. in 1999.
in + the + a specific century: nineteenth century. e. g. in the twentieth century.
in + historical period of time: the Dark Ages, Pre-historic Times. e.g. in the Middle Ages.
N.B. No preposition is used if the day/year has each, every, last, next, this before it:
e.g. I go to England every Christmas ( not at every Christmas )
I’ll see you next Monday afternoon. ( not on Monday afternoon )
Martin left home last evening. ( not in the evening )
Usage: For and Since:
These prepositions explain how long an event, activity, situation has continued:
e.g. for three days since last Thursday
for + a period of time: two days, one week, three months, four years e.g. for the weekend.
This phrase can be used with all verb tenses.
e.g. Michael went to Latvia last year for three weeks. – past
I am in Poznan for ten days. – present
My cousin will be visiting the West Indies for two months next February. - future
since + a point of time + past tense: last week, the war ended, 1990, yesterday.
The point of time does not have to be accurate.
e.g. My sister and her husband have worked in India since 1991.
Arek has been very ill since yesterday evening.
Usage: During and While:
These prepositions explain a period of time in which an event, activity or situation took place:
e.g. during the next month while I was swimming.
during + a noun or phrase: the war, the nineteenth century: e.g. during my schooldays. This phrase can be used with all verb tenses: past, present, future.
e.g. Magda received many telephone messages during the last week. – past
I am seeing Simon during the morning. – present
Winston will return to England during the Christmas Holiday. – future
while + subject + verb: to eat, talk, swim, walk etc…. This clause can be used with all verb tenses: past, present, future
e.g. We will take you to the theatre while we are in London.
While Joanna was in Spain, she didn’t go to a bull fight.
N.B. In English, While can often be replaced by when and retain the same meaning.
while + infinitive + -ing (Present Participle): thinking, running, driving etc..
e.g. While swimming in the sea, Hania was attacked by a shark.
Ela met Andrew while studying English at Oxford.
Usage: Before and After:
These prepositions explain accurately the timing of an event, activity or situation:
e.g. before the weekend after the holiday
before + a noun: Monday, Christmas, examinations etc.. e.g. before the weekend.
before + subject + verb: to eat, study, swim, talk. etc.. All verb tenses can be used.
e.g. He spoke to his teacher before the examination began.
Before you say anything, I must explain why I am here.
before + infinitive + -ing (Present Participle): to read, write etc.. e.g. before eating.
after + noun: the lesson, the meal etc. e.g. after the journey
after + subject + verb: to draw, sit, read etc.. All verb tenses can be used:
e.g. Patricia was very happy after she won the tennis match.
Why did the Queen smile after the President shook her hand?
After she finishes her studies, Ann will work in Poland.
after + infinitive + -ing (Present Participle): to decide, say, report etc.. e.g. after crying.
Usage: By, until, till:
These prepositions describe a time limit for commencement/completion of an activity.
e.g. by Sunday until April 1995 till next week
By means not later than and can be used with all verb tenses.
Until/till explains how long an activity continues, will continue or has continued and can be used with all verb tenses.
N.B. Until/till have the same meaning: till is a short form of until.
by + noun describing time/date: examples: this afternoon, tomorrow, Thursday.
e.g. Please pay me by Friday morning.
Will you finish your work by four o’clock?
By the end of the year, Donata spoke English very well.
Structure: Until, till:
until/till + noun describing time/date: examples: next week, this evening, tomorrow.
e.g. Tom’s wife will stay here until/till the end of next week.
Until/till the end of the month, you can use my computer.
The Williams Family lived in Germany until/till 1991.
Usage: From – – – – to/until:
From . . . . . to/until defines the beginning and end of a period of time, present, past or future:
e.g. from April 1989 to July from November until March
Structure: From – – – – – to/until/till:
From + time/day/date/year to + time/day/date/year and can be used with all verb tenses.
e.g. From 1987 until 1991, Mary was at university in Leeds.
Each day, Arthur works in the bank from nine till five thirty.
My shop will be closed from 1st July to 31st August