By David Rose
Happy New Year everyone 🙂
I’m often asked about prepositions, for example: ‘Why are they so complicated?’, ‘What’s the rule?’ and What’s the best way to learn them?’
Well, in a bid to deal with these and other such relevant questions, let’s start with the ‘technical’ definition of a preposition:
“A word used before a noun, a noun phrase or a pronoun, connecting it to another word, for example ‘We jumped in the lake’, and ‘She drove slowly down the track”Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus 3rd Edition, Cambridge University Press
Possibly interesting, but really not useful in helping you consistently choose the correct ones in your written and spoken English, is it…?
So, now I’d like you to consider my more ‘practical’ definition:
How many types are there? Two – variable (e.g. I live inBrussels, I was born in November) and fixed (e.g. it depends on you).
Are they ‘easy’? No, even advanced learners of English find prepositions difficult, as a 1:1 translation is usually not possible. One preposition in your native language might have several translations depending on the situation.
Is there one ‘rule’ to help me choose the correct one? No, the only real way to learn them is by heart.
This second definition leads us to two important conclusions:
(i) Prepositions are ‘tricky’ – impossible to reliably translate, of several types and without one overall rule to guide you in their use
(ii) The only way to really master them – so you can automatically choose correctly – is to learn them by heart
So, having established that you need a clear set of ‘maps’ of these prepositions to learn and for reference in you writing…
…here they are!
1. Variable Prepositions
Variable prepositions can be sub-divided into three groups: time, place and ‘important others’:
2. Dependent Prepositions
Dependent prepositions… by a lovely coincidence of cosmic balance… can also be sub-divided into three groups: verb, adjective and noun.
(a) Verb + preposition
(b) Adjective + preposition
(c) Noun + preposition
3. Wrap up
So, having now seen a wide range of examples of the two types of prepositions and their sub-groups mapped out…
…it’s over to you to:
(i) Use them as a reference when writing
(ii) Learn them to develop your spoken fluency!
If you’d like some links for online practice exercises (with answers) to help you master prepositions faster, check out this article.
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© David Rose LACS Training 2012