Prepositions and Conjunctions

Read this text about prepositions and conjunctions. 


Prepositions are relation words; they can indicate location, time, or other more abstract relationships. Prepositions are noted in bold in these examples:

      • The woods behind my house are super creepy at night.
      • She sang until three in the morning.
      • He was happy for them.

A preposition combines with another word (usually a noun or pronoun) called the complement. Prepositions are still in bold, and their complements are in italics:

      • The woods behind my house are super creepy at night.
      • She sang until three in the morning.
      • He was happy for them.

Prepositions generally come before their complements (like in England, under the table, of Jane). However, there are a small handful of exceptions, including notwithstanding and ago:

      • Financial limitations notwithstanding, Phil paid back his debts.
      • He was released three days ago.

Prepositions of location are pretty easily defined (near, far over, under, etc.), and prepositions about time are as well (before , after, at, during , etc.). The following video is a succinct overview of the types of prepositions:

The most common prepositions are one-syllable words. According to one ranking, the most common English prepositions are on, in, to, by, for , with, at, of , from, as. There are also some prepositions that have more than one word:

    • in spite of (She made it to work in spite of the terrible traffic.)
    • by means of (He traveled by means of boat.)
    • except for (Joan invited everyone to her party except for Ben.)
    • next to (Go ahead and sit down next to Jean-Claude.)

Using Prepositions

A lot of struggles with prepositions come from trying to use the correct preposition. Some verbs require specific prepositions. Here’s a table of some of the most commonly misused preposition/verb pairs:

different from comply with dependent on think of or about
need of profit by glad of bestow upon

Some verbs take a different preposition, depending on the object of the sentence:

agree with a person agree to a proposition
differ from (person or thing) differ from or with an opinion
reconcile with (a person) reconcile to (a statement or idea)
compare with (to determine value) compare to (because of similarity)

When multiple objects take the same preposition, you don’t need to repeat the preposition. For example, in the sentence “I’ll read any book by J.K. Rowling or R. L. Stine,” both J. K. Rowling and R. L. Stine are objects of the preposition by, so it only needs to appear once in the sentence. However, you can’t do this when you have different prepositions. Let’s look at this using a common phrase: “We fell out of the frying pan and into the fire.” If you leave out one of the prepositions, as in “We fell out of the frying pan and the fire,” the sentence is saying that we fell out of the frying pan and out of the fire, which would be preferable, but isn’t the case in this idiom.

Prepositions in Sentences

You’ll often hear about prepositional phrases. A prepositional phrase includes a preposition and its complement (e.g., “ behind the house” or “long time ago “). These phrases can appear at the beginning or end of sentences. When they appear at the beginning of a sentence, they typically need a comma afterwards:

      • You can drop that off behind the house.
      • A long time ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth.
      • As the saying goes, hard work always pays off.

Source: ITTT,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Source: Lumen Learning, Excelsior Online Writing Lab,;
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License.