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Prepositions are words which are used before nouns or pronouns to indicate a relationship between a noun or pronoun and another word. They can serve various purposes such as locating something in time and space, changing a noun or telling us when or where, or under what conditions, something happened.
Some common examples of prepositions are: at, by, for, from, in, into, on, to, with, between, since
Here are some general rules about the use of the most common prepositions – for more help, consult with a HELPS Advisor.
We use at to designate specific times and on to designate days and dates.
E.g. The Australian financial year ends at midnight on 31 June.
We use in or between for non-specific times during a day, a month, a season, or a year.
E.g. Changes to superannuation legislation were made in September 2007.
E.g. Between May 2006 and July 2007, individuals were allowed to make up to $1 million in after-tax contributions.
We use for when we measure time e.g. seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years.
E.g. The survey ran for 30 minutes.
We use since to describe the duration of an action from a specific date or time.
E.g. The research project has been ongoing since March 2013.
We use in for the names of land areas, cities, states, countries and continents.
E.g. The 2014 G-20 Summit will be held in Brisbane, Queensland.
We use at for specific addresses or locations.
E.g. It will be held at the Convention & Exhibition Centre in Brisbane.
We use on to designate names of streets, avenues, etc.
E.g. The Convention & Exhibition Centre is on Merivale Street, Brisbane.
We use to in order to express movement towards a place.
E.g. He went to the conference on implementation of sustainability in organisations.
‘Toward’ and ‘towards’ are also used to express movement in the direction of a particular place or outcome. Both words are interchangeable. However, some references explain that ‘toward’ is more common in American English and ‘towards’ is British English.
E.g. The research team travelled towards the top of the summit.
Sometimes prepositions are automatically linked with particular nouns, adjectives or verbs.
Some examples are:
Nouns and Prepositions
Adjectives and Prepositions
Verbs and Prepositions
There are occasions in English when no preposition is used. Some examples of these words are: inside, outside, downstairs and upstairs.
For more help with grammar issues affecting your assignment work, there are many useful resources on the HELPS website, as well as in the UTS Library. You can also come and talk to the HELPS Advisors who can assist you.
Swan, M. 2005, Practical English Usage, 3rd edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.