The cat is on the mat.

Many English learners struggle with Prepositions. This can present problems especially in speaking and writing. So how can we fix this?

Do you have problems working out your in from your on; your at from your from; or your up from your down? Here is a simple exercise which can help you to decide which preposition to use and how to remember it.

But wait. What exactly is a preposition of place? A preposition of place tells us where something or someone is located. There are actually only three prepositions of place — at, on and in — but they can be used to describe almost any number of places. These are:

  • At –is used to describe a certain point or place
  • In–helps us to describe an enclosed space
  • On–means we are talking about a surface

Here are some examples of how we use prepositions of place.

  • Daniel is waiting for you at the bus stop.
  • The food Menu is on the wall.
  • I live in Toronto.

However, along with these three prepositions, we can also use prepositions of direction which help clarify exactly where something is located. There are more of these which are used to confirm when, where and under what conditions something is located. For example, let’s look at our first preposition of place: at.

Daniel is waiting for you at the bus stop, by the restaurant.

In this example, we already knew that Daniel was waiting for us at the bus stop. But, by using the preposition of direction by, it tells us exactly which bus stop Daniel is waiting at. So, by using the two prepositions (place and direction) we are given clearer instructions and information. Let’s move on to our next example.

The food menu on the wall between the entrance and the tables.

Here we are told exactly where the food menu is located, so we can expect to see it as we walk into the building.

I live in Toronto, close to the C.N Tower.

Toronto is a large city, but the additional information gives us a more precise location. Below is a list of just some of the prepositions of direction which we can use in conjunction with prepositions of place:

  • Above — The picture hangs above the door.
  • Against — The kite flew against the wind.
  • Among — I sat among my friends in class.
  • Behind — The clock is behind the teacher.
  • Between — The gym is between the two buildings.
  • By — I stopped by the tree.
  • Close to — I wanted to sit close to the window.
  • In front of — There were many people in front of me in the queue.
  • Inside — We went inside before it started to rain.
  • Near — I live near the train station.
  • Next to — The pharmacy is next to the hospital.
  • Onto — The bird flew onto window of my house.
  • Opposite — The school is opposite the parking lot.
  • Towards — The crowd is heading towards the exit.
  • Under — The backpack is under the table.

Now, let’s put it all together…

To help my students learn and remember these prepositions, I ask them to physically place objects in the places which use the prepositions they are trying to remember. So, get yourself something memorable that you can place somewhere in your house or classroom:

  • Put a book on your bed.
  • Place a plant in your garden by the wall.
  • Put your phone in your bag near the door.
  • Move your shampoo bottle into your bathtub.

This physical item will be much more memorable than any flashcard or list of words. It will stay clearly in your mind and will be easier to recall when writing or speaking.

So, practice, choose your object, choose your preposition of place, make it funny or interesting, and then you’ll remember it.

Participation and creativity is the key, even if you use places such as in my ear or on my head and so on. You could even do this with a friend. Take some silly photos and write them down in your notebook!

If you do this, it will be difficult to forget your prepositions of place after that!

I hope you find this technique useful! Please feel free to leave any comments below. Let me know if there are any other techniques you use for remembering prepositions!

Source (adapted from): Pretty Amazing Prepositions Of Place: In, On, At, And More! – italki

One thought on “Putting Prepositions in their Place!

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