Whether you notice it or not you make use of different parts of speech ever day. You might not think about the grammar that you are using, but it is there. But what happens if you would like to know more about grammar – or perhaps you are planning to teach English to foreigners and have to know. Suddenly you may not feel so at home with your home language as what you thought – but no need to worry, there is no need to be a walking textbook. This simple guide will give you a reminder of the deeper workings of the language that you use every day. Whether it's for yourself or to teach to someone else, this simple guide will tell you all you need to know about prepositions.

What is a preposition?

A preposition is a type of linking word that connects nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence.

The preposition object and the preposition phrase

The word that is introduced by a preposition is called the preposition object. The preposition comes before this word (pre) to place it in the sentence (position).

He put the plate on the table.

The word "on" is the preposition – it introduces the preposition object, "the table" and links it to where the plate has been put.

The preposition and its object together ("on the table") is called the preposition phrase. The prepositional phrase often acts as an adverb (in this example, "on the table" is an adverb of place) but can also act as a noun or adjective.

Types of prepositions

Prepositions generally indicate movement and where and when something happened, which is why the main prepositions fall into the following categories:

1. Time (before, after, while, until, by, at) E.g. He didn't make a move until the doctor left the room.

2. Place (on, there, here, over, under, beside, in front of) E.g. I placed the books on the table.

3. Movement (from, into, around, out, through, over) E.g. He got to his feet and moved towards the mirror.

There are many different prepositions, and many can fit into all of the above categories – while some don't fit into any (I gave her a piece of my pie). Knowing the different categories is not important – they just serve as guidelines to understanding and identifying the purpose of prepositions. If it's placed before a noun or pronoun and indicates placement in time and space – it's a safe bet that it's a preposition.