Common errors with Prepositions

Posted by Manjusha Filed in English grammar

Though the prepositions are small words, they are very important ones, and their correct usage is a test of your mastery of the language. This article explains the correct usage of some prepositions that often cause confusion.

Beside and besides

Students often get confused about the meaning and usage of these two words. Beside means 'by the side of' and besides means 'in addition to'.

Since and for

This is another set of prepositions often confused by foreign students. Since refers to the starting point of an action. It means 'from a particular point of time in the past' and it should be used with the present perfect tense of the verb.

For is used to talk about duration. It refers to a period of time.

A common mistake is to use since when referring to a period of time. You must not say 'He has been absent since two days' or 'I have been studying since two hours.'

Between and among

We use between to say that somebody or something is between two or more clearly separate objects.

Among is used with more than two people or things.

By and with

By is used to refer to the doer of an action; with is used to refer to the instrument with which the action is done.

In and At

In is generally used to refer to large places - countries, districts, large cities etc. At is generally used to refer to small and unimportant places like villages, small towns etc.

This rule is not very rigidly followed now, and in is often used for small places too, though at is seldom used for big places.

On, in, at and by

While speaking about time at indicates an exact point of time, on a more general point of time and in a period of time.

Note that 'at night' is an exception to this rule.

By is used to show the latest time at which an action will be finished. So it is usually used with the future tenses.

On and upon

On is generally used to talk about things at rest and upon to talk about things in motion.

However, this rule is not rigidly followed now, and on is often used to talk about things in motion too.

In and within (time)

In means at the end of a certain period; within means before the end of a certain period.

Note that this distinction too is not always kept and in is often used for within.

Sections in this article

Prepositional phrases
Verbal phrases
Participle phrases
Infinitive phrases
Gerund phrases
Adjective clauses
Noun clauses
Synthesis of sentences
Transformation of sentences