Recognize a preposition when you find one.
Prepositions almost always indicate location. Often, this location is in the physical world.
Here are three examples:
The puppy is
on the floor.
The puppy is
beside the shoe.
The puppy is
with a friend.
On, beside, and with are all prepositions. With the other words that make up the prepositional phrase, they are showing where the puppy is.
In addition, prepositions can show location in time. Read the next three examples:
At midnight, Jill craved mashed potatoes with grape jelly.
In the spring, I always vow to plant tomatoes but end up buying them at the supermarket instead.
During the marathon, Iggy's legs complained with sharp pains shooting up his thighs.
At, in, and during all help to show where we are in time.
Because there are so many possible locations in space and time, the list of prepositions is long:
by means of
in addition to
in back of
in case of
in front of
in place of
in spite of
on top of
* But is very seldom a preposition. When it is used as a preposition, but means the same as except—Everyone ate frog legs but Jamie. Usually, but functions as a coordinating conjunction.
Understand how to form a prepositional phrase.
Prepositions frequently introduce prepositional phrases, which will usually follow this pattern:
Preposition + Optional Modifier(s) + Noun, Pronoun, or Gerund
Here are examples:
At = preposition; school = noun.
According to us
According to = preposition; us = pronoun.
By = preposition; chewing = gerund.
Under the stove
Under = preposition; the = modifier; stove = noun.
In the crumb-filled, rumpled sheets
In = preposition; the, crumb-filled, rumpled = modifiers; sheets = noun.
Realize that some prepositions have split personalities.
Five prepositions can also function as subordinate conjunctions: after, as, before, since, and until. When these five are subordinate conjunctions, both a subject and a verb will follow, forming a subordinate clause.
Read these examples:
After Sam and Esmerelda kissed goodnight
After = subordinate conjunction; Sam, Esmerelda = subjects; kissed = verb.
As Jerome buckled on the parachute
As = subordinate conjunction; Jerome = subject; buckled = verb.
Before I eat these frog legs
Before = subordinate conjunction; I = subject; eat = verb.
Since we have enjoyed the squid eyeball stew
Since = subordinate conjunction; we = subject; have enjoyed = verb.
Until your hiccups stop
Until = subordinate conjunction; hiccups = subject; stop = verb.
Consider these examples:
After the killer calculus test
After = preposition; the, killer, calculus = modifiers; test = noun.
As a leader
As = preposition; a = modifier; leader = noun.
Before = preposition; dancing = gerund.
Since the breakup
Since = preposition; the = modifier; breakup = noun.
Until = preposition; her = pronoun.
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