Prepositions Common Mistakes

In this lesson we will learn about some common mistakes in the use of prepositions.

Incorrect: This is my first time to see a movie since a long time.
Correct: I haven’t seen a movie for a long time.
Correct: I haven’t seen a movie in a long time. (American English)

Incorrect: I am ill since two weeks.
Correct: I have been ill for two weeks.
Correct: I have been ill since January.

To reckon from a particular date, we use since. Examples are: since last year, since Friday, since morning etc. For is used with a period of time. Examples are: for two hours, for two months etc.

Incorrect: It was the worst storm since ten years.
Correct: It was the worst storm in ten years.
Correct: It was the worst storm for ten years.

After negatives and superlatives in can be used to talk about duration. This is common in American English.

Incorrect: This fabric is inferior than that.
Correct: This fabric is inferior to that.

Incorrect: He is senior than me.
Correct: He is senior to me.

Incorrect: He is superior than you in strength.
Correct: He is superior to you in strength.

The comparative adjectives inferior, superior, senior, junior, anterior and posterior are followed by to instead of than.

Incorrect: He wrote me.
Correct: He wrote to me.

The preposition to is used to introduce the indirect direct.

Incorrect: I shall explain them this.
Correct: I shall explain this to them.

Incorrect: He suggested me this.
Correct: He suggested this to me.

Some verbs are followed by two objects – a direct object and an indirect object. The indirect object usually refers to a person and the direct object usually refers to a thing. In the sentence given above, the direct object is the pronoun this and the indirect object is the pronoun them.

Note that when both objects are pronouns, the indirect object usually comes last. In other cases, it usually comes before the direct object. When the indirect object comes after the direct object, it takes the preposition to or for.

Incorrect: Send this letter on my new address.
Correct: Send this letter to my new address.

Incorrect: He goes in the school.
Correct: He goes to the school.

Incorrect: He goes on his work.
Correct: He goes to his work.

The prepositions at, on and in are used for position; to is used for movement or direction.

Incorrect: He is intelligent but he lacks of experience.
Correct: He is intelligent but he lacks experience.

The verbs discuss, enter, marry, lack, resemble, reach and approach are followed by direct objects without prepositions.

Incorrect: We are having the roof repaired on Easter.
Correct: We are having the roof repaired at Easter.

We use at to talk about the whole of the holidays at Christmas, Easter, New Year and Thanksgiving.

Incorrect: What were you doing in the weekend?
Correct: What were you doing at the weekend? (British English)
Correct: What were you doing on the weekend? (American English)

Incorrect: I am at home in any morning.
Correct: I am at home any morning.

Incorrect: Let’s meet on one day.
Correct: Let’s meet one day.

Incorrect: Are you free in this evening?
Correct: Are you free this evening?

The prepositions at/on/in are not normally used in expressions of time before next, last, this, one, any, each, every, some, all etc.

Incorrect: He told to me to go.
Correct: He told me to go.

Tell can be directly followed by a personal object. We do not use the preposition to.

Incorrect: She did not ask any question to him.
Correct: She did not ask him any question.

Incorrect: I will ask the time to that man.
Correct: I will ask that man the time.

When ask is followed by two objects, the indirect object (the person) usually comes first, without a preposition.

Incorrect: From our class he did best.
Correct: He did best in our class.

Incorrect: The new semester begins from June 1st.
Correct: The new semester begins on June 1st.

Incorrect: Phone me in lunch time.
Correct: Phone me at lunch time.

Incorrect: We usually go out at the evening.
Correct: We usually go out in the evening.

The prepositions at, on and in can be used for time. The rules are given below.

At + clock time
In + part of day
On + particular day
At + weekend, public holiday
In + longer period

Incorrect: He rides in a cycle.
Correct: He rides on a cycle.

Incorrect: He sat in a bench.
Correct: He sat on a bench.

Incorrect: He rides on a car.
Correct: He rides in a car.

Use on when the meaning is clearly ‘on top of’. Examples are: on the table, on the desk, on the floor, on a horse etc. Use in when ‘on top of’ is not appropriate. Examples are: in an aeroplane (US in an airplane), in a car, in a train etc.

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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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