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Are you a confident preposition user?

By 25 April 2018Language Tips
Use prepositions correctly

Use prepositions correctly

Using the correct preposition can make the difference between the meaning you intended and a meaning which is quite different, and possibly inappropriate.

What’s a preposition?

A preposition is a small but important part of the English language. To put it simply, prepositions connect nouns or nouns and pronouns!

Say you have two nouns ‘doctor’ and ‘nurse’. You can use prepositions to connect or show a relationship between them.


  • The doctor near the nurse
  • The nurse explained to the doctor

While the first example shows a simple relationship through the preposition near the second example uses a verb and the preposition together!

The more complex, the more you need to be sure you’re using the right the preposition. Take a look at our complex examples below to help you better understand how prepositions work!

Problem prepositions

Problem 1

The same preposition can have a very different meaning when attached to a different word. For example:

  • Please come in[here ‘in’ means movement from outside the room into the room]
  • Come back in 2 weeks [here ‘in’ means time. Return after two weeks have past]

Problem 2

Combining a different preposition with the same verb or noun can also create a very different meaning. For example:

  • You should take up an exercise class [here the combination of ‘take up’ means start]
  • I realise this is a lot of information to take in [here the combination of ‘take in’ means process or understand].

Problem 3

Sometimes, as in the image example, the preposition is incorrect with the noun, verb or adjective it’s combined with.

  • Miles was admitted to hospital 3 days ago. 

There are some rules to learn about the use of prepositions especially for time and place but many other combinations need to be learnt, remembered and then used.

For more information about English grammar, make sure you take a look at our Preparation Portal. You’ll find guides, online courses and other preparation resources for you to use!

Preparation OET