Topic: Preposition

Prepositions often express meanings relating to space or time, and typically appear before nouns or noun phrases (e.g. at home, in the park, before your party).

Prepositions in instructional writing

Prepositions are particularly important when trying to communicate instructions about time and place.

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. The Activity page contains one slide: an example of instructional writing from our corpus. You can see that quite precise instructions are given as part of a recipe. It is reprinted below with the prepositions highlighted.


Prepositions in instructional writing: Activity


Cut the meat into even-sized cubes, leaving any fat, but removing all gristle.

Process for 10 seconds, scrape the sides. Make sure the meat is thoroughly evenly cut, then turn the meat into a separate bowl.

Add the onion and egg yolk to the bowl and process until the food is pureed, add salt and pepper to the meat.

Writing a story with prepositions

This lesson looks at how you might use your knowledge of prepositions and preposition phrases to write a short story aimed at children.

Identify the prepositions

Click on the words that you think are prepositions to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Identify the preposition

Identify the prepositions in each of the following examples. Click on the word (or words) to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Pronoun or preposition?

In each of the following examples, indicate whether the highlighted word is a pronoun or a preposition:

Phrasal verbs

What is a phrasal verb? Phrasal verbs consist of a combination of a verb and another word, which we’ll call a preposition. Some examples are come over, look (something) up. The first word in a verb-preposition combination can be just about any verb. The verbs that most commonly appear in such combinations are listed below:

Phrasal verbs: New phrasal verbs

There are many phrasal verbs that you won’t find in any dictionary. This is because we commonly create new phrasal verbs based on the meanings of existing phrasal verbs. Usually, new phrasal verbs are either transparent or aspectual – new idiomatic phrasal verbs would usually be too difficult for listeners to decode. Perhaps you’ve heard examples like the following:

Phrasal verbs: Three categories

Non-native speakers are often told that their only option is to memorise each phrasal verb individually. Is it really necessary to do all that work? No. Not only is it unnecessary, it’s inefficient. And it’s inefficient for three reasons:


Prepositions are a closed class of words. They are generally quite short words that often relate to meanings of place and time.

The following are common prepositions:

  • across, after, at, before, by, during, from, in, into, of, on, to, under, with, without

This is not a complete list. More unusual prepositions can be harder to recognise because they do not have a standard form.

Some prepositions are made up of more than one word.


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