logo ELT Concourse: a simple, illustrated grammar of English
illustrated grammar

Saying where and when: prepositions

Prepositions tell us where or when something happens or something is.  For example:


The train arrives at 6 o'clock (when)
The train arrives on Platform 3 (where)

It is important to know what comes first in the sentence and where we put the preposition.  In English, the preposition comes after the verb and before the place or the time.  Like this

1st 2nd 3rd 4th
noun verb preposition time or place
The train arrives at 6 o'clock
The train arrives on Platform 3

The preposition tells us how the verb and the noun work together.


How many prepositions?

There are over 200 prepositions in English but, don't worry, most of them are unusual.  In this part, we will look at the prepositions you need.  You can add to the list later.


Prepositions of place

Here are the 18 most important prepositions of place.

Preposition Use Example Remember the picture
on fixed
for surfaces
public transport
on the wall
on the table
on the left
on the bus
on television / the radio
on the wall
on the table
in buildings
private transport
books, boxes, rooms etc.
in the house
in a car
in the book
in the box
in the study
in the living room
in the book
at exact place
work places
at platform 6
at the party
at work
at school
in a party
next to
sides by me
next to her
beside Mary
under lower under the water under water
over higher than
more than
from one side to the other
over the river
over 21
over the road
above higher above the city above
across from one side to the other
on the other side
(walk) across the road
(be) across the road
through between two limits through the tunnel tunnel
to movement towards to London towards
into movement to inside into the water into
towards movement in direction of walk towards me toeards
onto movement → on onto the water onto
(away) from movement away from the garden
walk away from me
from the garden
away from
out of movement to the outside get out of the building
get out of the car
out of
off downward or away movement get off the bus off

Here's a picture of some prepositions of place.  Notice that some of them are used for movement, some for place and some for both movement and place.

preposition grid

Click here to take a test on prepositions of place.


Prepositions of time

Here are the 10 most important prepositions of time:

Preposition Use Example Remember the picture 
on days on Monday
on my birthday
in months
time of day
periods of time
in January
in the morning
in 1998
in two years
at night
weekend / holidays
point in time
at night (time)
at the weekend
at Christmas
at 4 o'clock
since from a point in time since then
since 2009
for a period of time for a week seven
ago this comes after the noun
for period of time
two years ago AGO
before earlier than a point in time before 10 before 10
till / until
showing start and finish
from morning to evening
until the end of the day
time telling twenty past 6
a quarter to ten
pastbefore 10
by at the latest by 10 o'clock at least by

Click here to take a test on prepositions of time.

If you want to test more of your prepositions, go to the exercises for learners.