Prepositions show the positional relationship between words or word groups. The positional relationship may be with respect to space, time, or some other sense.
For example, “He put the key in the drawer.” Here, the preposition “in” shows the position with respect to space, between “put” (the verb) and “drawer” (the object of the preposition).
The most common prepositions are “on”, “in”, and “at”. For example, “The chair is on the floor, the floor is in the building, and the building is at the crossroads.”
A preposition that has a complement (usually a noun, pronoun, or a clause) is known as a transitive preposition, whereas one that does not have a complement is known as an intransitive preposition. Generally, prepositions are classified as simple, compound, complex or phrasal. A simple preposition is of one word (with, after, except). A compound preposition is of two words that act as a single word (underneath, throughout, alongside). A complex or phrasal preposition is of two or more words (according to, except for, ahead of).
Common prepositions are:
aboard, about, above, according to, across, across from, after, against, along, alongside, alongside of, along with, amid, among, apart from, around, aside from, at, away from, back of, because of, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, besides, between, beyond, but, by, by means of, concerning, considering, despite, down, down from, during, except, except for, excepting for, from, from among, from between, from under, in, in addition to, in behalf of, in front of, in place of, in regard to, inside, inside of, in spite of, instead of, into, like, near, near to, of, off, on, on account of, on behalf of, onto, on top of, opposite, out, out of, outside, outside of, over, over to, owing to, past, prior to, regarding, round, round about, save, since, subsequent to, together, with, through, throughout, till, to, toward, under, underneath, until, unto, up, up to, upon, with, within, without.
- Aarts, Bas (2011). Oxford Modern English Grammar. Oxford University Press. p. 410. ISBN 978-0-19-953319-0.
- Huddleston, Rodney D.; Pullum, Geoffrey K. (2005). A student’s introduction to English grammar. Cambridge University Press. p. 320. ISBN 0-521-61288-8.
- Whitney, William Dwight, (1877) Essentials of English Grammar, Boston: Ginn & Heath.
- Zandvoort, R. W. (1972) A Handbook of English Grammar (2nd ed.) London: Longmans.