Prepositions for Place

Relating locational information— Where?

Bambi Airstream trailer
 

 

Prepositional Phrase vs Other Wording

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE

A preposition for place (locational preposition) expresses where the action in the clause takes place. One or more prepositions may be used in a series.  

COMPLEMENTS TO PREPOSITIONS

Inside is a kitchen, bathroom and bed.

The table unfolds in the middle.

The bed is in the back of the trailer. (PP + PP)

Bedding storage is overhead.

An air vent opens on top of the trailer.

The mini-trailer can easily move from place to place.

OTHER WORDING

A similar meaning may be expressed with locational nouns and modifying clauses. See list below.

OTHER WORD FORMS

The interior has a kitchen, bathroom and bed. (NP) 

The table unfolds mid-way. (N)

There is a bed which in the back of the trailer. (clause)

Storage located overhead holds bedding. (clause¹)

The roof has an air vent.  (NP)

The trailer is very mobile. (Adj)

 

¹ Nonfinite clause: an infinitive, gerund, or past-participle clause

See Prepositional Complements regarding the range of structures that can follow a preposition.

 

 

 

Word Forms Used in Locational Expressions

Determiners a, the, some; Demonstrativesthis, that, these, those

Locational Nouns home, city, country, North, East, West, South, Paris, Athens, etc.

Locational Adverbs: (Locational Adverbs have been moved to the category Preposition.  The category Adverb is reserved for modifiers more closely related to the verb (adverbs of manner, degree, frequency, etc.)

Locational Prepositions: here, there (deictic), inside, outside, overhead, downhill, around (See list below.)

Categories: N – noun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; VP – verb phrase; Det – determinative; P – preposition; PP – prepositional phrase; Adv – adverb; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adj – adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator; Interj – interjection

 

 

 

 

 

Preposition Lists

One, two and three word prepositions

 

 

 

Prepositions for Place  (locational prepositions)

aboard (ship, bus, plane)

about

above

across

after

against

ahead of

along

amid / amidst (non-count object)

among / amongst

apart from

around

aside of

at

atop

away from ¹

before

behind

below

beneath

beside / besides

between (2 objects)

beyond

by

close to

down

far (from)

far away from ¹

from

in

in back of

inside

inside of

in the bottom of

in the middle of

in front of ¹

near

next to ¹

of

off

on

onto ¹

on the bottom of

on (the) top of

out

out of ¹

outside (of)

on the outside of

opposite

over

past

through

throughout

to

toward(s)

under

underneath

up

upon

with /within

¹ out of, inside of, upon, onto, in between as to, because of are analyzed as a composite prepositions; a fossilized combination.

See , Preps w/o objects

 

 

Prepositions that Include Nouns

here

there

abroad

ahead

apart

ashore

aside

away

downstairs

downhill

upstairs

uphill

indoors

inside

outdoors

outside

overhead

overseas

underground

underfoot

backward(s)

forward(s)

downward(s)

westward

north

east

south

west

a — to;   away, ashore, apart, aside

 

 

 

 

 

In ⇒ On → At

Specify large to small places

 

 

 

Places—In / On / At

IN ON AT

Use in for larger areas.

Use on for smaller areas.

Use at for exact locations.

San Francisco bay and city cable car HOMES
CITY / AREA / DISTRICT / AREA STREET / GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURE BUILDING

The event is in  China Town

The meeting occurred in  San Francisco

The parade is in  the Castro District

The activities are in  the San Francisco Bay Area

The event is on Powell Street

The meeting occurred on the Peninsula

The activities are on Alcatraz Island

 

The event is at home

The meeting occurred at work

The activities are at the library

 

STATE / REGION WATER / WORLD ADDRESS

in California

in North America / Europe / Australia

on the bay, on Lake Tahoe

on earth

at 1220 Haight Street

at Haight-Ashbury (intersection)

EXPRESSIONS EXPRESSIONS EXPRESSIONS

in space, in the Universe

in a car

on board (ship, bus, train, airplane)

on a bike

on a horse

at home (comfortable)

at a crossroad(s) (place requiring a decision)

at the end of a rope (be in need of assistance)

A verb or "be" verb may be complemented by a locational (place-related) prepositional phrase.

Complement — an element required to complete the subject and predicate

 

 

 

 

 

In vs. On

Within vs. On the Surface

 

 

 

In (within) vs. On (surface)

IN

Usually in refers to the area within an object.  Note the prepositional phrase is placed after the object phrase (the tomatoes).

tomatoes in a bowlShe put the tomatoes in a bowl.

She put the tomatoes inside of a bowl.

She placed the tomatoes into a paper bag(in + to = inside)

ON

On refers to the upper, outer surface. The prepositional phrase is placed after the object phrase.

tomato on bowlShe placed the tomatoes on a bowl.

She placed the tomatoes on top of a bowl.  

She placed the tomatoes upon the window sill. (up + on)

 

 

 

 

In the street vs. On the street

IN THE STREET

In the street refers more to the area within: the central, traffic area of the street. Usage varies among speakers.

potholesThe workers were fixing potholes in the street. (within or below surface)

People drive in the street.  (center traffic area)  BUT: on the freeway / on the highway

He was standing in the street when a bicycle hit him. (center traffic area)

EXPRESSION

Summer's here and the time is right for dancin' in the street. (music lyrics)

ON THE STREET

on the street refers more to the surface or side of the street.  Usage varies among speakers.

cars on the streetThe workers were painting new lines on the street. (surface)

People park their cars on the street. (side of the street)

He was picking up a dollar on the street when a bicyclist hit him. (surface)

EXPRESSION

His man on the street interviews won him an award. 

 

Solution - lightbulb  Pop-Q – "On/In"
Man on the street (expression) average person or passer-by on the sidewalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On/Off vs. In/Out-of

Public / Private Modes of Transportation

motorbike
 

 

Prepositions for Transportation

PUBLIC

Get on – off are used for a bus, plane, ship or train. ( The expression CANNOT be separated by an object or object pronoun.

Get on the bus.

Get off the bus.

Get on the plane.

Get off the plane.

Get on the ship.

Get off the ship.

Get on the train.

Get off the train.

Get on the elevator. (Br. Eng – lift)

Get off the elevator.

Get on the escalator.  (moving stairs)

Get off the train.

*Get it on.   

(inseparable expression)   

PRIVATE

Get in - out of are used for enclosed, private transportation. On - off are used for other modes such as bikes and motorcycles.

Get on the motorcycle.  (open-air)

Get off the motorcycle.

Get on the bicycle. (open-air)

Get off the bicycle.

Get on the escalator. (open stairway)

Get off the escalator.

Get in the car. (enclosed)

Get out of of the car.

Get in the taxi. (enclosed)

Get out of of the taxi.

Get in the elevator. (enclosed)

Get out of of the elevator.

*Get the elevator in.

(inseparable expression)   

 

Originally from "on board" a wooden ship, on now refers to all mass transportation: on a bus, on a ship, on a plane, on a ferry.)
*See Phrasal Verbs (inseparable)  |  Pop-Q "Get_on"

 

 

 

wing-walker
 

In the plane vs. On the plane

IN THE PLANE

Refers to the area within, to the actual space inside.

We were crowded together in the plane.

The luggage travels in a pressurized cabin in the plane.

Aluminum and titanium was used in the plane to reduce its weight. (construction materials)
 

ON THE PLANE

Refers to boarding or being aboard; or on the surface.  (See note above.)

We got on the plane last. 

We were on the plane for ten hours.

The Hollywood stunt man stood on the plane while it was flying. (on top of)

 

 

 

 

 

By car vs. On foot

VEHICLE

When telling how something is done (means or method) use by.

carI went by car.  (by plane, ship, train)

SELF

Use on for personal mode.

on footI went on foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between, Among, Amidst

Relative Variations

 

 

 

BETWEEN

Use between with two items. (Use in between for something located at a midpoint on an imaginary line.)

egg betweenThe egg is between the apple and the pear.  ("in between" is a location in line)

He stood between a rock and a hard place. (expression)

The egg is in between the apple and the pear. (location – in line)

My husband and I keep our secrets between ourselves. (exclusive to others)

AMONG / AMONGST

Use among with three or more items or with a noncount noun. A variation occurs, amongst, with the final -st  against, amidst. (mostly in Br-Eng)

egg amongPlace the apple among the fruit. (noncount)

Decide among yourselves.  (count)

Gossip passed among the villagers.  (count)

He is only one among many.  (count)

They lived among the Indians.  (count)

 

 

 

 

IN THE MIDDLE OF

In the middle of specifies a middle placement: in a location, or on a field or plane (a mathematical plane); or to specify being surrounded by things.

MIDDLE PLACEMENT

egg in the middleThe egg is in the middle of the chess board. (location)

The egg is in the middle of the refrigerator. (location)

*The egg is sitting in the middle of the water. (thing – noncount)

The egg is sitting in the middle of the pot of water. (thing – count)

He sat in the middle of the people and played his guitar.

MID-WAY / MID-POINT / MID-CONSCIOUSNESS

I'm in the middle of something right now.  I'll call you back. (a project)

She's in the middle of a dream / a nightmare / a temper tantrum.

AMID / AMIDST

Amid  specifies being among or surrounded by things or people.  A variation, amidst, mostly occurs in British English.                                                      

SURROUNDED

egg amid lentils*The egg is amid the refrigerator. (location)

The egg is sitting amid / amidst the rice. (thing – noncount)

The egg is sitting amid / amidst the beans. (things – count)

He sat amid / amidst the students and played his guitar. (people)

Helen stood amidst the ruins of Troy and cried. (poetic)

SURROUNDED BY NOISE OR CHAOS

The dollar fell amid / amidst rumors of a weak economy.

He stepped back amid / amidst the shouts of angry people.          

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect or awkward usage.

ruins (N) – parts of a building or fortress left after the rest has been destroyed

temper tantrum (N) – display of childish rage or frustration: crying, head-banging, kicking

 

 

 

 

 

Adverb vs. Preposition  (traditional grammar)

Relative to a direction vs. relative to a fixed object

 

 

 

Adverb vs. Preposition

AN ADVERB FOR PLACE

Adverbs express movement in a direction.  An adverb tells us where an activity happened, but it does not relate the movement to another object.                   

 

(The little, toy egg, shown here, has wooden legs.)

 

 

A PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE FOR PLACE

Prepositional phrases are more specific in relating an object to the direction of movement. They tell us where in relation to an object an activity happened.

   

 

Some words can be used as a preposition or an adverb. See Adv. & Prep List 
fixed (Adj) – non-moving

 

 

Relative Placement

egg in front of apple
in front of

an egg behind an apple
behind / in back of

an egg between an apple and a pear
between (2) / among (3+ )

an egg on top of an apple
on / upon / on top of

egg in apple
in / inside

an egg next to an apple
next to / aside of / beside

egg under apple
under / below

egg over
above / over

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Function of Preposition

As subject or complement

 

 

 

Subject or Predicate Complement

SUBJECT

A prepositional phrase may function as the subject of a clause or as a modifier to the subject noun.

SUBJECT PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
PP V NP

On the door

is

 

a message.

NOUN *MODIFIER PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
N + PP V NP

A message on the door

includes

the information.

NOUN *MODIFIER PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
N + PP V IO + NP

A man at the door

gave³

us a message.

PREDICATE COMPLEMENT

A prepositional phrase may also function as the complement to the predicate or as a modifier to the object noun.

SUBJECT PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
NP V PP

A message

is hanging¹

on the door.

SUBJECT PREDICATE PRED COMPLEMENT
N V DO + PP

They

left²

a message on the door. 

SUBJECT PREDICATE OBJ *MODIFIER
N V IO + DO + PP

They

gave³

us a message with a phone number.

 

¹ intransitive verb— does not require an object as its complement

² transitive verb—takes an object as its complement, DO direct object or IO indirect object

³ditransitive verb—takes an indirect object IO and a direct object DO

Categories: N – noun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; PP – prepositional phrase

*In linguistic analysis, this prepositional phrase is a complement to the head noun not a modifier.  (CaGEL 24)

Also see Prepositional Phrases of Time — subject or complement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

We went at home  /   to home.

 

We went to downtown.

I went there in car.

I went there on my feet.

He placed a sign which said he would be back in ten minutes on the door.

SOLUTION

We went home.   (no preposition)

We were at home. 

We went downtown(no preposition, "down" is the preposition)

We were downtown.

I went there by car.   (See means or method.)

I went on foot. 

He placed on the door a sign which said he would be back in ten minutes

 

*incorrect usage

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional and Linguistic Description

Advanced

 

 

 

Traditional and Linguistic Description

TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR—AZAR LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION—HUDDLESTON

Traditional grammar describes many of the words above as adverbs because they answer the question "Where?"  

Traditionally, an adverb, unlike a preposition, does not take an object as its complement. 

"Adverbs are also used to express time of frequency.  Examples: tomorrow, today, yesterday, soon, never, usually, always, yet."  

"An important element of English sentences is the prepositional phrase. It consists of a preposition (PREP) and its object (O). The object of a preposition is a noun or pronoun." (Azar  440 A-3)

Prepositions take objects but adverbs do not.

 

Adverbial particles: He went above, about, across, ahead, along, around, aside, away, back, before, behind, by, down, forward, in , home near, off on, out, over, past, through.

"Many words of this kind can be used as both adverb particles and prepositions…" (Swan 20.1)

"Adverb particles are often used, rather like adjectives, as complements of the verb be." (Swan 20.3)

Current linguistic description includes place adverbs and prepositions for place in the same category: Preposition.

"they seem much less related to the verb and more like a preposition. A preposition can occur as a stand alone word or be complemented by a noun (an object) or a gerund." (Huddleston "Prepositions vs adverbs" 7 §2.4)

The category Adverb is reserved for modifiers more closely related to the verb (adverbs of manner, degree, frequency, etc.)

Adverb: He went slowly (manner) / often (frequency) / too (degree) fast.

Complements are more essential elements of the clause, dependents of the verb or verb phrase such an elements that function as the Object or Indirect Object.

 

A prepositional phrase occurs as an adjunct clause; an adverb does not.  (Huddleston 8 §4.2)

Preposition:  He went up / up the stairs / upstairs.  He went.

Adjuncts are less essential elements of the clause, loosely attached to the verb or verb phrase, such as modifiers and prep phrases. (Huddleston 15 §5)

Note that some verbs such as be may take a preposition or prepositional phrase as its complement. He is upstairs. (This is a "complement" not an "adjunct".)

 

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice1

Home

home
 

 

Complete the sentence.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 1-20" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

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Practice 2

Title

rabbit in hole
 

 

Complete the sentence.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 21-40" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

21.
(creek (N) – small river)

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