Prepositions: The complete study of time, Place, Position


We have studied in Step 7 about basic prepositions like, What is a preposition? and the list of prepositions that are often used

Now it is time to understand the prepositions deeply. Let’s study the examples and understand prepositions better.

  1. The book is on the table.
  2. The cattle are grazing in the field.

The words in bold letters i.e., on and in in the sentences above are prepositions. They show a kind of relationship between (1) ‘the book’ and the table and (2) the cattle and the field.

Now let’s compare the uses of the italicized words given in columns ‘A’ and ‘B’.

I. The sun sank down. I. The sunk sank down the hill.
II. The birds are flying about above. ii. The birds are flying about above the tree.
III. The children are playing outside.iii. They are playing outside the house

In column “A’ the italicized words: down, above and outside modify the verb phrases: ‘sank’ ‘are flying’ and ‘are playing’ respectively. Hence they are called adverbs. But in column “B” the italicized words ‘down’, ‘about’, ‘above’ and ‘outside’ go before the noun phrases the hill, the tree and the house to show a kind of relation between them. They are propositions.

Prepositional phrases

A prepositional phrase is a group of words consisting of a preposition, its object, and any words that modify the object. Most of the time, a prepositional phrase modifies a verb or a noun. For example, the expressions in the above table like ‘down the hill’, ‘above the tree’ and ‘outside the house’ are called Prepositional phrases.

Study the examples:

Prepositions: (i) We must be ready before their arrival. (N.P)

Conjunction: (ii) We must be ready before they arrive. (Clause)

In sentence (i) above, before is used as a preposition while in the sentence (ii), Before is used as a conjunction.

Double word Prepositions or Word group Prepositon-examples

I. The headmaster read out the report on behalf of the staff and the students.

ii. There is a big tree in front of our house.

iii. Owing to his ill health, he is now unable to attend his office.

Prepositions are not always used in single-word forms. They are often word groups as shown in the above examples.

Participial preposition

Participial prepositions [also called participle prepositions) are participles that are used as prepositions. Remember participles are words that are used to make compound verbs, nouns, adjectives, and in some cases used as a preposition.

Mark the example:

i. He is very active considering his age.

ii. He told me regarding his family.

The ‘ing’ words, “considering” and “regarding” are the –ing form of verb and they have taken noun phrases after them as objects. They are called participial prepositions.

Study some more examples:

i. The people affected by the flood are given relief.

ii. The soldiers killed in the war were given national honour.

The past participles affected and killed are followed by the prepositions by and in in the said examples.

i. She is sure of success.

ii. They agreed to the proposal.

iii. We can find a solution to the problem.

Sometimes prepositions come after adjectives, verbs and nouns.  Here ‘sure’ is an adjective, ‘agreed’ is a verb and solution is a noun. The prepositions used are ‘of’, ‘to’ and ‘to’.

Position of the preposition

Mark the end position of the preposition in the following examples.

Non-infinitive clauses : (i)       She needs a pen to write with.

Wh-questions:             (ii)        Who were you talking to?

Wh-clauses:                 (iii)       What I am sure of is that Gopal will succeed.

Relative clauses:         (iv)       That is the article I told you about.

Exclamations:              (v)        What a difficult situation I was put into!

Passives:                      (vi)       War reporters sometimes get shot at.

Here in these examples, we mark the end position of the prepositions.

Prepositional of Place. (A)

At, on, In

i.          A child is standing at the door/ at the window / at the gate.

ii.         Candidates have to write their names at the top of the page / at the bottom of the page.

iii.        Mita is at her desk .

iv.        Shila is still at school.

v.         The passengers are waiting at the bus-stop.


  1. We have seen the notice on the notice board.
  2. There is a dirty mark on your shirt / on the wall.
  3. Sometimes people sit on the grass / on the ground.
  4. There is a pen on the desk.
  5. Don’t leave your glasses on the floor.
  6. There were a lot of pictures on the wall.
  7. About 5000 people live on the island. (if the island is a small place)

We use on for a surface. If it refers to a group of islands or a big island, we use in .

He lives in the Andamans.


  • The children are playing  in  the garden.
  • He has something  in  his hand.
  • A few young men are swimming  in the river.

We use in  when we see something as a closed place.

Let’s compare in and at, in  and  on, at  and on.

In  and at

  1. There are many customers in  the hop. (in the building)
  2. Go along the road and turn left at  the shop. (=point of place)
  3. It was cold in  the library (=in the building)
  4. We are at  the library (= choosing a book)

We say: in a line, in a queue, in a street, in a photograph, in a mirror, in a book, in a magazine etc.

At  and on

  1. There is somebody at the door.
  2. There is a notice  on  the door.

At home, at work, at school / college / university.

e.g., (i)  Satish is at school / college / university/

            (ii) They are busy at work.

(iii) The sailor is at sea (on a voyage)

In and at are used for buildings.

e.g., (i) We met the colonel at  the military headquarters.

(ii) We enjoyed a film at the Ritz Cinema.

Similarly at the party / at a concert  etc.

e.g., (i)  There was a large crowd at the party / at the meeting.

            (ii) We met our uncle at a football match / at a concert.

We say : at the station / at the airport etc.

We say  at  some body’s houe.

e. g. (i)             He is at his uncle’s (House)

(ii) The patient is at the doctor’s (clinic).

Iii. Satish is at the hair-dresser’s (saloon)

We use in when we think of the building.

In and  at  for towns, villages etc.

We use  in  with cities, towns, villages etc.

e.g., (i) Samir lives in Bhubaneswar.

(ii) They live in nandahatapalli.

We can use at  when we think of the place as a point of place aon a journey

(iii) Do you know if the train stops at Bhubaneswar?

(iv) They stopped at   a small village on their way to Delhi.


By  means next to / beside

(i) Come and sit by me.


(i) Rajesh won the car race by ten meters.

(ii)  Her salary has increased by  15 per cent.

Above, over, below, and under

(i) The plane is flying above/over the town.

Flags waved above / over our heads.

Over  and above  describe a vertical relationship:

Over  can also mean across,

From one side to the other.

There is a bridge over/ across the river.

The girl is learning over the wall.

The girl is leaning against the wall.

Above: There is a temple above the house.

Below: The house is below the temple.

Above and below describe the relative positions of two things when one is higher / lower than the other.

Under:  There is a cat under the table.

On top of: There is a temple on top of the hill.

Along:  The boy is walking along the road.

Across: The man is going across the road.

Through: The road goes through the tunnel.

We walked through or across the field. We use through or across to indicate when something moves from one end to another end of the field or space. Town, crowd etc.

To and towards

i. Theya re going to Konark / Harishankar.

ii. I saw them running towards the field.

We use to for a destination and towards for a direction.

In front of, behind

 There is a garden in front of  the school.

The motor cycle is behind the motor car.

Opposite, in front of

i. The people are standing in front of the theatre (waiting to go in)

ii. Mita is sitting opposite Gita.

Between / Among

i.  The ball went  between the player’s legs.

ii. Amit lives somewhere between the university and the hospital.

iii. Luxemburg lies between Belgium, Germany and France.

Iv. I tried to spot Seema among the crowd.

Vi distribute the sweets among the children.

‘Between’  is used when we speak of two persons / things. “among”  is used when there is a large number. However, ‘between can be used when we have a definte number in mind as given in example No (iii) above.


Fill in the blanks with appropriate prepositions.

  1. Somebody has drawn a picture _______________ the wall.
  2. The girl is standing _______________ the door.
  3. Now my brother is _______________ the village.
  4. Look at the young men swimming _______________ the sea.
  5. There is a label _______________ the medicine.
  6. It is dangerous for children to play _______________ the street.
  7. Distribute the sweets _______________ Leena and Reena.
  8. He was happy to be _______________ his relatives.
  9. The girl is walking _______________ the road.
  10. The bank is _______________ the road.
  11. The hunters moved _______________ the jungle.
  12. London is _______________ the Thames.
  13. If you walk to the end of the street, you will see a mall shop _______________ the corner.
  14. There is a TV set _______________ the corner of the room.
  15. We often watch the stars twinkling _______________ the sky.
  16. Samir is ill. Hence he isn’t _______________ work.
  17. Shall we travel _______________ your car?
  18. People often go _______________ bus.
  19. Rabin is lying _______________ the grass reading a book.
  20. The passengers had to stand _______________ a queue for tickets.


At, on, in, for, since, by, till, until, during, from, to, between

1. At

e.g. (i)           School begins at 10.30 a.m.

We have breakfast at 7 a.m.

At one o’clock / at  half past five / at  breakfast / at that time / at   the moment.

At  is used to express an exact point / moment in time.

II.    They had a feast at  Christmas.

We can use at with holiday periods of two or three days. At Ester, at new year, at Thanks Giving at week end etc.

2. On

e.g. (i)        Seema was born  on  Sunday.

      (ii)        India got freedom  on August 15, 1947.

We use on  with a single day,  on Thursday,  on  18th September,  on  that day,  on  Easter Sunday, on  the 20th September, 2004.

Study the examples:

 (i)  We visited Konark  on  Tuesday afternoon.

(ii) We met  on  the evening of Kumar Purninma.

on’  is used before a specific part of a day.

3. In

(I) They sat for the examination in

(ii) We met in the mornings of July.

We also use in with a part of a day

(iii) Columbus sailed across the Atlantic  in  seventy days.

(iv) I will come  in  a minute.

We also use in how soon something will happen.

(v)  She will finish the work  in  five days.

It indicates a period of time when something happens.

4.    for and since

  1. They stayed at Gopalpur for  a week.
  2. We have been waiting for twenty minutes.
  3. The family lived here for fifteen years.
  4. We haven’t seen him  since October, 2003.
  5. Shanti has been studying in this school since June, 2002.

We often use for  and since  with the present perfect tense.   For  is used to say how long something has been happened going on happened. For  refers to a period of time and  since  is used to say when something started : it refers to a point of time.

5.            Till / until

  1. He will be in Kolkata till/ until  next November.
  2. We were at the market till/ until  its closing time.

We use till/ until  to say when something finishes, i.e., to refer to a point of time.

6.            By

  1. I am always up  by 6 o’clock. (at six o’clock or erlier)
  2. Can you clear up your dues by  Saturday? (on or before Saturday)

7.            Form and between

  1. Tickets will be sold form next Wednesday.
  2. It started raining from seven in the morning.

We use from the time when something starts.

Study further examples.

  1. The criket season in India continues from  November to / till / until April.
  2. The road will be closed from Friday evening to / till /until  Monday morning.

After the phrase with from  we can use to/ until /till  for the time when something  finishes.

8.            Between.

  1. Non many people work between the Christmas and New Year’s Day.

We can use between for a period after one time and before another.

9.            Before, after

                i. Arati Came  before  Ava.

                ii. Ava came after Arati.

Before means ‘earlier in time’ and after means ‘later in time’

Expression of time without at, on, in

e.g., (i) We visited Konark last Sunday. (not on last Sudany)

                (ii) They are busy this morning.

(iii) She may take the examination next year.

(b) But (i) They agreed to  meet (on) the following Sunday.

(ii) Something unusual happened (on) that day.

10.          During

  • People make merry during the festival.
  • Somebody came here during absence.
  • Meera met her friend during  the tea-break.

11.          On time / in  time

  • The train arrived on time.
  • The school bell rang on time.

On time : Neither late nor early, happening at the correct time.

In time: (i) Ramesh reached school in time.

(ii) They arrived at  the station in timeto catch the 7.30 a.m. train.

(=early or soon enough for something to do something.)

12. ‘At the end’ and ‘at the beginning’.

  • Meet me at the end  of the month.
  • We came here at the end  of December.
  • The candidates sit for the examination at the end  of the course.

The opposite of  at the end is at the beginning.

i.  At the beginning  of April the academic session begins.

ii.   At the beginning  of the concert there were a few people.

13           In the end (=finally)

 I had a lot of problems with my bicycle. I often got it repaired .

In the end I sold it and bought a new one. We use  in the end when we say what the final result of a situation was.

The opposite of in the end  is  at first.

 At first  we didn’t like the place, but  in the end  we liked it most.


Fill in the blanks using appropriate prepositions.

  1. Columbus discovered America __________ 1492.
  2. We can see the stars __________ night.
  3. I am going to market. I shall be back __________ 7 p.m in the evening.
  4. Will you be here __________ the end of the week?
  5. She will be here __________ half an hour.
  6. Arati and Prashant are getting married __________ November.
  7. We hope that the weather will be clear __________ tomorrow.
  8. They often don’t go out __________ working days.
  9. The train left the station __________ time.
  10. Schools, colleges and offices remain closed __________ Dusserah.
  11. We have lived here __________ twenty years.
  12. Our friend visited us __________ new years.
  13. I shall go home __________ Sunday morning.
  14. You can keep the book __________ Thursday.
  15. If the train is late, we won’t reach Puri __________ time.
  16. Your sister’s birthday is __________ Monday, isn’t it?
  17. You are __________ time for lunch. We were about to start eating.
  18. We have been studying here __________ 1998.
  19. We will be here __________ the classes are over.
  20. Did  you take notes __________ the lecture?

Prepositions: Other meanings (C)

Prepositions can have meanings other than place and time.

Study the examples.

  • We were talking  about  the weather.
  • We are often against changes.
  • I will make tea  for  you.
  • I listened  to  a lecture on primary education
  • What has happened  to him?

With has other meanings.

  • I went to the party with  a friend.
  • They set to work with great interest.

Of has a number of different meanings.

  • She is a singer of  great ability.
  • Ramesh is a man of  medium height.

On/ in/ at

  • We are going to Puri on business.
  • They like going  on  tours.
  • I watch the news on  telivison.

Similary :  on the telephone, on telephone.

There is no bus to day.

  • The Bus Association is on strike.
  • He is on a strike  to lose weight.
  • That house is on fire.

On purpose = intentionally

i.          We didn’t harm him on purpose. (intentionally)

For (i)  Where are you going  for  your holidays next summer?

Expressions with in

i.  The tired travelers rested in  the cool shade.

Similarly  in the rain, in the dark, in hard weather  etc.

In ink / pencil

  1. Candidates answer questions in ink.
  2. They are not allowed to write in  pencil.

In words / in figures / in block letters etc.

i. Please write your name in  block letters

ii. Write the amount in words.

In cash / by cheque /by credit card.

  1.  We paid the bill in  cash.
  2. WE paid by  cheque / by  credit card.


  1. Sushil drives at 40 kms. An hour.
    1. Water boils  at  100 degrees celcius.

On the bus/ in a car etc.

  1. Harish came in  a car.

We don’t use by  when  we speak of a specific car owned by somebody.

i. they go to school  on  the school bus.

ii. She will go  on the morning train / plane (general reference)

We usually say  on a bus / on a train / on a plane / on a ship but in a car.

Similarly  on a bicycle / on a motor cycle / on a horse

Leesha goes to school  on  foot = (walking)

i.  Mira goes to school  on a bicycle.

 For ‘means of transport’ when we make a general reference, we use by bus .

Similarly  by taxi, by plance, by road, by air, by car, by ship, by boat, by bicycle b etc.

i. We often go to the town  by bus.

ii.  But I came to the meeting in my car.

                For modes of communication / sending things /messages etc.

  1. We send money by post.
  2. We do a lot of work by hand.
  3. We paid the dues by  cheque / in  cash.
  4. We met him by  chance.

We send messages:

  1. We send money  by post.
  2. We do a lot of work  by  hand.
  3. We paid the dues  by cheque/ in  cash.
  4. We met him  by  chance.

We send messages by cable, by hand, by letter, by post, by radio, by television, by telephone, by e-mail.

But we may say arrive in/at  a city / town.

  1. The quests arrived  in/at a city/ town.
  2. They arrived in at/in  Hyderabad.

But ‘they reached Hyderabad’.

  1. ‘At’ is used when we mean a definite point on a journey.

Home:  We don’t say to home.

We say : we go home/come home/ get home/ on the way home.

Use of Prepositional Phrases

Mark the uses of the phrases:

In Sapin

In Grove Road

In the lesion

In a book

In a newspaper

In the photo/picture

In the m idle

In a queue / line / row

In the country

at 12 Grand Road

At the station

At home/at school /at work

On 42 street Delhi / Chennai

On the third floor.

On the page

On the screen

On the island

On the page

On the screen

 On the island

On the beach / on the coast

On the right/left

On the back of an envelope.

There are some prepositional phrases on the following pattern.

Let’s mark the places and institutions which one goes to or attends for a specific purpose.

1. go,
2. Come
to bed (to rest)
1. Be,
2. stay,
in bed (for rest)
1. go,
2. come
to study
bet at1. breakfast,
2. dinner
1. be in class,
2. go to church
for worship

Be at church

Be at home ( in one’s own house

Go to hospital (for medical treatment)

Be in office  (holding an official position)

Go to prison à as a punishment)

Go to university à for study.

Miscellaneous Preposition (c)


at ease

At heart

At length

At peace

At rest

At war

At first

At last

At short notice

 At play

At sight

At work

At hand

At least

At once

At present

At once

At present

At least

At sea

At the end

In the end (finally)


By accident

By design

By heart

By oneself

By surprise

By chance

By degrees

By mistake

By rights

By day

By good fortune

By name

By sight


In brief

In danger

In due course

In general

In need

In pieces

In reply

In short

In tears


In debt

In fact

In love

In order

In private

In sight

In time

In common in difficulties

In half

In name

In particular

In public

In secret

In stock

In turn


On business

On horseback

On time

On/off duty

On guard

On purpose

On fire

On holiday

On sale


Out of control

Out of doors

Out of  place

Out of stock

Out of danger

Out of hearing

Out of reach

Out of turn

Out of date

Out of order

Out of sight

Out of work


Under control

Up to date


within hearing

Within reach

Within sigh

Note: make a sentence for each and every phrase of the above so it will automatically set in your mind.


Use on time / in time / at the end / in the end  /a t first /at the beginning to complete the sentences.

  1. The express train usually comes __________
  2. I have washed my pants. I want to wear it this evening. So I hope it will dry __________
  3. I was about to miss the flight to Mumbai: However, I managed to reach the air port __________
  4. They had a party __________ of the month.
  5. It was a matter of joy that Smita was offered the job __________
  6. School begins at 10.30 a.m. Ashok usually comes to school at 10.15 a.m. He reaches school __________.
  7. Shanti is holidaying for a month. She is going to hostel __________ of June.
  8. The N.C.C. cadets are under training. They are to go away __________ of the week.
  9. The patient suffered a lot. The doctors treated him for a long time. __________ he recovered his health.
  10. __________ Eva didn’t want to go to the cinema. __________ She came with us.
  11. One of the swimmers collapsed __________ of the competition.


Fill in the blanks with prepositions:

  1. If you haven’t any cash, you can pay _________ cheque.
  2. Kamal didn’t intend to take Bin’s pen. She took it _________ mistake.
  3. They usually go _________ bus but today they went _________ my car.
  4. The gramophone company close down because there was no demand _________ its products.
  5. Prashant won the election _________ a margin over 50 voes.
  6. They sent a cheque _________ Rs. 500/-
  7. Shakuntala is a play _________ kalidas.
  8. Someone is standing  _________ the window.
  9. The accident happened because of Ashok’s fault. So he had to pay compensation _________ the damage.
  10. Girish and Sirish joined a race. Sirish won the race _________ 10 meters.
  11. I shall be on duty _________ 7.30 a.m.
  12. Water boils _________1000 celcius.
  13. There was an important announcement. _________ TV.
  14. The house is _________ fire.
  15. We are in a problem. We have to find out a solution _________ the problem.
  16. Very few people buy bullock carts. There isn’t much demand _________ them.
  17. Did you get an invitation _________ the party?
  18. The question is tricky. However, I can write an answer _________ it.
  19. Gopal is absent today. What may be the reason _________ his absence?


Fill in the blanks with appropriate prepositions:

  1. Does the headmaster live _________ the school campus?
  2. The ground is wet. It must have rained _________ the night.
  3. The island is very small. About five thousand people live _________ it.
  4. The island is very big. About 30, 000 people live _________ it.
  5. She wrote a letter _________ link.
  6. The doctor cured her _________ the disease.
  7. Where do you come _________?
  8. The police are _________ duty.
  9. Now my brother is _______________ the village.
  10. Look at the young men swimming _______________ the sea.
  11. There is a label _______________ the medicine.
  12. It is dangerous for children to play _______________ the street.
  13. Distribute the sweets _______________ Leena and Reena.
  14. He was happy to be _______________ his relatives.
  15. The girl is walking _______________ the road.
  16. The bank is _______________ the road.

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