ENGLISHEnglish Grammar

HOW TO USE PREPOSITIONS

PREPOSITION

1. A Preposition is a word that comes before a noun or a pronoun to show its relationship to another word in the sentence; e.g. 

a) Your shoes are under the table.
b) The child jumped off the bed.
c) I do not agree with you.
d) She is fond of coffee. 

(In the first sentence the word UNDER is a preposition telling the relation between two nouns SHOES and TABLE. In the second sentence the word OFF is a preposition telling the relation between the verb JUMPED and the noun BED. In the third sentence WITH is a preposition telling the relation between the verb AGREE and the pronoun YOU. And in the last sentence the word OF is a preposition telling the relation between the adjective FOND and the noun COFFEE.)

If we see the above sentences the word after the preposition is either a noun or a pronoun. TABLE, BED and COFFEE are nouns whereas YOU is a pronoun.

2. The noun or Pronoun used after the preposition is called its Object. In the first sentence above TABLE is the object of the preposition UNDER.

NOTE-I: A preposition may also have two or more objects; e.g.

Panchkula is situated between plains and hills.

[In this sentence the preposition BETWEEN has two objects PLAINS and HILLS.]

NOTE-II: Sometimes the object of a preposition is a PHRASE; e.g.

a) The noise is coming from ACROSS THE RIVER. (here ACROSS THE RIVER is a phrase)
b) I sold my motor cycle for UNDER ITS HALF COST.
c) Each article was sold at OVER A DOLLAR.
d) I did not see him till A FEW DAYS AGO
e) She was thinking about HOW TO AVOID HIM.

NOTE-III: Sometimes the object of a preposition is a clause; e.g.

I have no interest in what you say. (WHAT YOU SAY is a clause)

NOTE-IV: we put the objective case of a noun/pronoun after a Preposition; e.g.

a) I’m going to buy a ring for her.
b) My brother does live with us.

NOTE-V: If two or more words requiring different prepositions are joined by a conjunction like AND, OR, etc. we must mention all those prepositions; e.g.

My teacher is surprised at as well as happy with my work.

INCORRECT: Himanshu is younger and taller than his other brother.
CORRECT: Himanshu is younger to and taller than his other brother.

NOTE-VI: We do not use a preposition before TODAY, TOMORROW, YESTERDAY, THE FOLLOWING DAY, THE NEXT DAY, YESTERDAY EVENING, YESTERDAY AFTERNOON, LAST NIGHT, THIS MORNING, etc ; e.g.

INCORRECT: I’m leaving for Kolkata on tomorrow.
CORRECT: I’m leaving for Kolkata tomorrow.

INCORRECT: She will arrive here in yesterday evening CORRECT: She will arrive here yesterday evening.

NOTE-VII: Use of preposition with HOME

If there is a verb of motion such as get, go, come, arrive, reach, travel, drive, bring, etc we do not use any preposition with HOME, but if the verb is indicating a state (not motion) we use a suitable preposition with HOME, e.g.

INCORRECT: She went to home on foot yesterday. CORRECT: She went home on foot yesterday.

INCORRECT: Ankit drives me to home daily?
CORRECT: Ankit drives me home daily.

INCORRECT: Bring him at home in the evening. CORRECT: Bring him home in the evening.

INCORRECT: Mohan is home. [Verb BE (is) a verb of state (not motion)]
CORRECT: Mohan is at home.

But if HOME is preceded by a possessive adjective (my, our, you, etc.) or a possessive noun, we use the preposition TO before HOME; e.g. 

INCORRECT: I went his home in the morning.
CORRECT: I went to his home in the morning.

INCORRECT: I decided to go Ram’s home.
CORRECT: I decided to go to Ram’s home.

NOTE-VIII: Use of preposition after the verb SPEND

We use ON when we say ‘spend your time/money, etc’ (not FOR) e.g. 

INCORRECT: I don’t have any money to spend for luxuries. CORRECT: I don’t have any money to spend on luxuries.

INCORRECT: Whatever she earns she spends for her children. CORRECT: Whatever she earns she spends on her children.

 

How to decide whether we should use infinitive or gerund after ‘TO’ 

It’s a must to keep in mind that the word TO can be a preposition or part of an infinitive. If TO is a preposition we use gerund (ing form) after TO, if it’s not a preposition we use infinitive (V1) after TO. So, to decide whether the gerund is needed or the infinitive, it’s important to determine whether TO is a preposition or part of an infinitive.

A good way of finding this out is to see whether it’s possible to put a noun or pronoun after it. You already know that a preposition always takes a noun or pronoun after it, and also a gerund is a noun. So if TO is a preposition, it’ll take the gerund; otherwise TO will be part of the infinitive. Let’s understand this by the following example.

I’m accustomed to ———— .

ACCUSTOMED = familiar with something or used to

Meaning of ACCUSTOMED suggests that it must be a noun after TO. For example ‘She is accustomed to noise’. We see that the word NOISE is a noun. So it’s clear now that TO is a preposition here; hence if an action word is to be used here it will be the GERUND; e.g.

She is now accustomed to working in noise.

Some of such confusing expressions are the following. We use a gerund after all of them. 

accustomed to habituated to owing to
addicted to in addition to with a view to
averse to look forward to prone to
devoted to object to taken to
be/become/get used to

1. a) I am looking forward to your reply. (As REPLY is a noun TO is a preposition )
b) I am looking forward to receiving my payment soon. (Construction with a gerund)

2. a) I am used to noise. (As NOISE is a noun TO is a preposition)
b) I am used to working in a noisy environment. (Construction with a gerund)

3. a) This road is prone to accidents. (As ACCIDENT is a noun TO is a preposition )
b) In his youth he was prone to gambling. (Construction with a gerund)

[PRONE  =  likely to suffer from an illness or show a particular negative characteristic]

4. He comes to me with a view to getting some help.

5. My father is addicted to smoking.

NOTE: USED TO without BE/BECOME/GET takes infinitive, not gerund; e.g.

I used to smoke earlier.

 

POSITION OF PREPOSITIONS 

A)  We normally use prepositions in front of their nouns or pronouns. We, in the following constructions sometimes, do use a preposition at the end of the sentence, but it’s incorrect in standard English. 

In questions beginning with a ‘PREPOSITION + WHOM /WHAT / WHOSE / WHICH / WHERE’

INCORRECT: Who have you bought this dress for?
CORRECT: For whom have you bought this dress?

INCORRECT: Which table are your books on?
CORRECT: On which table are your books?

B)  In relative clauses, a preposition placed before WHOM / WHICH cannot be moved to the end of the clause. 

INCORRECT: He is the person whom I had lunch with. OR He is the person with who I had lunch with.
CORRECT: He is the person with whom I had lunch.

INCORRECT: This is the shop which I bought my books from.
CORRECT: This is the shop from which I bought my books.

NOTE-I: But if the relative pronoun is removed from the sentence, the preposition moves at the end of the clause. Therefore the above two sentences can be written like this: 

a) He is the person I had lunch with.
b) This is the shop I bought my books from.

NOTE-II: But when the object of the preposition is the relative pronoun THAT, the preposition is always placed at the end of the clause; e.g.

INCORRECT: Here is the book for that you were looking. CORRECT: Here is the book that you were looking for.

INCORRECT: This is the man with that I lived.
CORRECT: This is the man that I lived with.

NOTE-III: But if THAT is the relative pronoun, it can be removed from the sentence altogether. On removing the relative pronoun THAT, the above sentences will be:

a) Here is the book you were looking
b)This is the man I lived with.

NOTE-IV: In passive voice we use the preposition at the end; e.g.

a) I have been operated
b) That theft case has been enquired

C)  If it’s an infinitive sentence we use the preposition at the end; e.g.

a) She does not have a nice dress to put on. (here TO PUT is an infinitive and ON the preposition)
b) I don’t have a pen to write with. (here TO WRITE is an infinitive and WITH the preposition)

 

USE AND OMISSION OF THE PREPOSITION ‘TO’ 

1.  WHEN OBJECT IS A PERSON 

a) When we do not use ‘TO’
We do not use TO after verbs of command, request, advice and invitation if there is a person as an object. Some of these verbs are:

advise ask beg command
compliment congratulate encourage forbid
implore inform invite order
recommend remind request tell
urge warn welcome welcome

 

i) She advised me to wait for an hour.
ii) She urged her to try again.
iii) They warned him to stay away from those wires.

NOTE: If the verb RECOMMEND is followed by an object other than a person we use the preposition TO before the person appearing after; e.g.

She recommended it to me.

b) When we use ‘TO’
We use TO after the following verbs if the object is a person:

complain describe explain listen
pray propose reply report
say speak suggest talk
write

 

i) I cannot reply to you before next week.
ii) I said to him that I was not well.
iii) She suggested to me that I should consult the doctor first.

c) When use of ‘TO’ is optional
Verbs that take ‘TO’ when a person is the object, but if that object is removed they do not take ‘TO’:

call ( =shout) complain describe explain
grumble murmur mutter say
shout speak suggest talk
whisper

 

i) Rahul complained to her about the food.
= Rahul complained about the food.

ii) He said nothing to his teachers.
= He said nothing.

iii) He said to me that he was ill.
= He said that he was ill.

NOTE: SHOUT AT is used when the subject is angry, but SHOUT TO is used when the subject raises his voice because someone is at a distance; e.g.

a) My mother shouted at me when I did not return in time. (Means she was angry with me.)
b) My mother shouted to me from the roof. (Means she shouted because I was at some distance.)

 

VERBS WITH WHICH WE DO NOT USE ‘TO’

When the following verbs are in the active voice we do not use any preposition after them:

accompany affect attack board
comprise consider control describe
direct discuss emphasise ensure
enter eschew investigate join
pervade precede reach resist
resemble resist succeed sign
stress tell violate demand
invade ridicule order

 

a) Would you like me to accompany you to your room?
b) You are requested to order for a cup of coffee.
c) We’re considering selling the house.

 

USE OF PREPOSITION WHEN THERE ARE TWO OBJECTS OF A VERB 

A verb can also have two objects. If it’s so one of them denotes a person and the other denotes a thing. The object denoting the thing is called the DIRECT OBJECT, and the object denoting the person is called the INDIRECT OBJECT. See the following sentence to understand it well.

Mohan gave me a pen.

[In the above sentence verb GAVE has two objects namely ME and PEN. The object ME is denoting a person, hence it’s the indirect object. The object PEN is denoting a thing, hence it’s the direct object.]

If the direct indirect object is immediately after the verb we do not use a preposition, but if the direct object is with the verb we must insert a suitable preposition like TO/FOR before the indirect object; e.g.

a) Mohan gave me a pen.
= Mohan gave a pen to me.

b) Will you do me a favour?
= Will you do a favour to me?

c) I bought my daughter a doll.
= I bought a doll for my daughter.

d) Fetch her a pencil.
= Fetch a pencil for her.

NOTE-I: However some of the verbs take a preposition even if they are attached with a direct object immediately after. Some of these verbs are:

entrust furnish present provide
supply

INCORRECT: Cows provide us milk.
CORRECT: Cows provide us with milk. OR Cows provide milk to us.

INCORRECT: The Principal presented me the trophy. CORRECT: The Principal presented me with the trophy.

NOTE-II: When the direct object is somewhat a longer phrase or a clause we put the indirect object with the verb itself and no preposition is used; e.g.

a) Tell me the whole story.

(here you see that the direct object THE WHOLE STORY is a phrase, so you can’t say TELL THE WHOLE STORY TO ME.)

b) She showed me what she had in her

(here you see that the direct object WHAT SHE HAD IN HER BAG is a clause, so you can’t say SHE SHOWED WHAT SHE HAD IN HER BAG TO ME.)

 

USE OF GERUNDS AFTER PREPOSITIONS 

A)  Verbs placed immediately after prepositions must be in the gerund (-ING form) form; e.g.

i) He insisted on paying for himself. (ON: preposition; PAYING: gerund)
ii) I apologize for not replying to the letter in time. (FOR: preposition; REPLYING: gerund)
iii) He left without saying goodbye. (WITHOUT: preposition; SAYING: gerund)
iv) Before signing any paper you should read it completely. (BEFORE: preposition; SIGNING: gerund)

NOTE-I: EXCEPTIONS TO ABOVE

The only exceptions to the above rule are prepositions EXCEPT and BUT, which take the bare infinitive (V1 without TO); e.g.

a) I can’t do anything but accept his invitation? (BUT here is a preposition; and therefore is following the bare infinitive ACCEPT)

b) She did nothing but complain. (BUT here is a preposition, and therefore is following the bare infinitive COMPLAIN)

NOTE-II: However, if BUT is used as a CONJUNCTION, it can be followed by either full infinitive or gerund; e.g.

I have no choice but to fire you.
= I have no choice but fire you.

 

How to decide whether BUT is a preposition or a conjunction 

BUT as a conjunction
BUT as a conjunction add two contrasting sentences or clauses; e.g.

a) They had very little money, but they always bought their children expensive presents.
b) They were poor, but hardworking.
c) Her car is fifteen years old, but still drives beautifully.

But as a preposition
BUT as a preposition means ‘except’, BUT is used to introduce the only thing or person that the main part of the sentence does not include. BUT as a preposition is chiefly (though not always) used after words such as EVERYONE,  NOBODY,  ANYTHING, ANYWHERE,  ALL, NO, NONE, ANY, EVERY; e.g.

a) I’ll go anywhere for my holiday but Ajmer. I really hate it there.
b) On holiday he eats nothing but fried food.
c) She took everything on holiday with her but water bottle.
d) Everybody but the very young must carry their own tracking kit.
e) I’ve read all the chapters but two.
f) Nobody but Madhu would wear a mini-dress at a formal dinner.

In the following expressions also But is a preposition:

next but one last but one

a) They live in the house next but one to Renu. (i.e. two houses away from Renu)
b) Is this the final candidate? – No, it’s the last but one. (i.e. there is one more candidate except him.)

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Maha Gupta

Maha Gupta

Founder of www.examscomp.com and guiding aspirants on SSC exam affairs since 2010 when objective pattern of exams was introduced first in SSC. Also the author of the following books:

1. Maha English Grammar (for Competitive Exams)
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