The last set of prepositions for you to study this month are "within" and "without." They are not opposites. "Without" is especially important to understand because it makes a sentence negative and it has almost the same meaning as "no" or "none."

Sorry it took so long to post a blog entry today. I was working on a new video for the preposition "on." Here it is:

 

The prepositions "under" and "underneath" have almost the same meanings and applications. If you aren’t sure how to use "underneath," then "under" will be okay.

There are two more days in which I’ll provide instruction on prepositions, and then we’ll begin the Blue Level on Wednesday. If you haven’t been on the website lately, you’ll notice a lot of new lessons and some new videos for prepositions. Go to the bottom of this page and work your way upward.

The Blue Level was designed for beginning level students, but if you are intermediate or advanced, there might be some new things for you to learn there. If you know anyone who wants to learn English, tell that person that we are starting from square one* on Wednesday.

* square one = the beginning of something; the first step

For many students learning English, the preposition "towards" sounds like a strange substitute for "to," yet it’s very common in the United States. You can also say "toward." The two words are basically the same.

  • She’s walking towards the door.
  • She’s walking to the door.

Which one is better, "to" or "towards?" You can choose either one, but the word "towards" means in the direction of something.

Here are some other examples for "towards" (or "toward"):

  • I’m saving money towards college.
  • He’s working towards getting a college degree.
  • They feel a lot of anger towards their neighbors.
  • The wind is blowing toward the north.

You can learn more about "toward" or "towards" by clicking here. Then go to this lesson for the preposition "to."

There’s also a YouTube video for "to" here.

The preposition for today is "through." This ten-second video shows one way to use this word. Click on the picture below:

train

There are many ways to use this word:

  • The students go to school Monday through Friday.
  • Look through the window and see if it’s raining.
  • I walked through the farmers’ market yesterday and picked up some fresh vegetables.
  • We drove through Wisconsin on our way to Chicago.

Click here to see more examples for "through."

** Don’t confuse the preposition "through" with the verb "throw" in the past tense: threw

throw / threw / thrown

Here’s a link to the preposition for today: past. This word is very similar to "after."

  • It’s half past six. (It’s 30 minutes after six)
  • The next town is 15 miles past this sign. (It’s 15 miles after this sign)
  • He walked past the store.

Don’t confuse "past" with the verb "pass."

pass / passed / passed

The verb "pass" in the past tense and as a past participle sounds like this. (listen).

  • She passed her driver’s test.
  • They have passed the age of 66 and are now retired.
  • The food was passed around the table.

 

The word of the day is "over." It’s similar to "above" when used as a preposition, but the meaning of the word changes when combined with verbs to make idioms and verb phrases:

  • Can you come over to my house? (come over = visit)
  • We need to go over some reports. (go over = review)
  • Have you had a chance to look over the menu? (look over = read quickly)
  • She hasn’t gotten over her boyfriend’s death yet. (get over = accept the reality of a situation)
  • Can you move over, please? (move over = move aside to make room for someone or something)

Of course, "over" is also used as an adjective to mean "finished."

  • What time is the movie over?
  • Their marriage is over.
  • When is your class over?

 

Today you’ll learn about the words "out" and "out of."

The preposition "out" is the opposite of "in." Its more common use comes in the form of an adjective when you want to say that a person is not in the office or at home, or you want to say that something is empty or used completely:

  • He’s not here. He’s out. (He’s gone)
  • We need more bread. We’re all out. (Someone ate it all)
  • We’re not doing that. That’s out.

In each of the sentences above, you could easily add the word "of" after "out" to form "out of." Look at how similar these sentences are:

  • He’s out of the office. / She’s out of town.
  • We’re all out of bread. We’re also out of milk.
  • That’s out of the question! We’re not going to do that.

There are a few more additional pages for the prepositions section. Pages for "up," "until," and "within" were added over the last couple of days.

There are three prepositions for you to learn about today: on, on top of, and onto.

"On" is often used with verbs to make a verb phrase (come on, take on, work on, fall on, etc.) or it’s used as an adjective (The TV is on.), or it’s used as a preposition (I’m on the phone.) Click on the link to see additional ways of using this important word.

"On top of" is used only as part of a prepositional phrase and it usually describes a location:

He climbed on top of a mountain.

A tree fell on top of a car.

She puts slices of bananas on top of her cereal.

"Onto" generally expresses movement from one place to another place, and it can has some idiomatic meanings. Sometimes "onto" is similar to "on," but these two words are usually used for different reasons.

 

This is a good time to remind everyone that we will go back to the Blue Level starting on September 1. The lessons on this website repeat for a couple of reasons. First, of all, new students come here regularly and they need help with basic English. Secondly, it’s helpful for everyone to review things that they already know. It’s easy to forget! Even something as basic as the verb "be" requires review. By the way, here’s a new video for the verb "be" on YouTube. I’m redoing some of the old videos because they were dark and hard to see or hear.

Following the Blue Level, we’ll go in order through the rest of the levels: red,  yellow green,  purple orange,  and violet. Each level is designed to help you learn English slowly, step-by-step. There’s no such thing as learning English quickly, so we go very slowly, and then we repeat. Some people have been coming to this website for years now because it helps if they repeat lessons they have finished in the past.

If you come to the website at least once every day, your English should improve over time. However, it’s important for students to learn from more than one teacher. That’s why you should look at the links section of the website for other places to learn English. I’ve reviewed all of these sites. Almost all of them are free. Some are better than others, but they all have something valuable to offer to people who want to learn online.

If you know someone who needs to learn English, send that person a link to this website so that he or she can start in September.

Here are a couple of new pages for the prepositions section of the website: underneath and down.

 

Today’s lesson is for the preposition "off."

I’ve also added a couple of new prepositions since yesterday. Here’s a link to the preposition "past," and here’s a link to the preposition "below."

Thanks to everyone who has been emailing me with errors in lessons and broken links. Sometimes I crank these pages out a little too fast and the errors show up online.

 

The preposition for today is "of." We often use "of" for units of measurement. The amount comes first (a gallon, two pounds, a glass, thousands) followed by "of" and then the thing or person:

  • I need a gallon of milk.
  • She bought two pounds of meat.
  • Do you want a glass of water?
  • There were thousands of people at the event.

Some people who speak English as a second language forget to use "of." I think this is especially true for people who learn English only by listening. It’s hard to hear "of." It sounds like "a" — a glass a water– or you might not hear "of" at all.

It’s helpful to contrast the word "of" with another preposition: "off." The word "of" is shorter and the "f" makes a "v" sound (listen). The word "off" is longer and the two "f"s are made by the lips but not the vocal chords (listen). The sound made by the "o" is also different.

Click here to read and listen to more examples of sentences that use "of."

Here’s a new page for the prepositions section: instead of

 

Today’s preposition is "next to." This is similar to "beside" and "by."

The use of "next to" is very common. We use it to describe the position of two things. These two pictures were taken in my kitchen:

soy milk dishwasher and stove
 The chocolate soy milk is next to the half and half.  The stove is next to the dishwasher.

Here are more examples of how to use "next to."

I’ve been adding new pages to the prepositions section. This webpage for "along" was completed last night.

 

The preposition "into" usually describes movement from one place to another place:

  • He’s flying into New York this afternoon.
  • We walked into the restaurant and sat down.
  • She put the cake into the oven.

However, there are many idioms that use "into" as well:

  • I ran into an old friend yesterday. (run into = meet unexpectedly)
  • He’s into techno. (be into = have a high level of interest)
  • The police are looking into the cause of the accident (look into = investigate)
  • She’s trying to get into a new career. (get into = enter)
  • The witch turned the prince into a frog. (turn into = to change)
  • We’ll try to work this into our schedule. (work into = make a part; accommodate)

You can find more examples for the preposition "into" on this page.

Word of the Day:

step

The word "step" can be used as a noun or as a verb. Let’s consider its use first as a verb:

step = put your foot into or onto something; walk

  • Don’t step in the water.
  • Step over here and I’ll show you something.
  • Please, step into my office.
  • Step very carefully. You might fall through this old floor.
  • The batter stepped up to the plate. (This is used for baseball)

Here are some sentences that show how "step" can be used as a noun:

  • The first step is the hardest part. (step = a course of action)
  • I have to fix the steps leading up to my house. (step = stairs)
  • Watch your step. (step = your method of walking; exercise of caution)

Today’s preposition is "in front of," which is not one word but three. Many prepositions consist of two or three words as you can see from this list.

"In front of" is fairly easy to use. It’s the opposite of "behind," so if something is in front of something else, you should be able to see it.

chinese banner There’s a large red banner in front of this building. There are also some cars parked in front of the building.

 paulaThey were sitting in front of the camera when this picture was taken.

Where are you right now? Are you in front of your computer? You can say "I’m sitting in front of my computer," or "I’m at my computer."

Click here to see more examples for "in front of."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here’s a new quiz for the prepositions "in," "on," and "at." It matches the new YouTube video that was uploaded yesterday.

 

The first preposition for this week is "in." This is an easy one, right? Sometimes it’s an easy choice to make, but the word has other meanings when used as an adjective. "In" is also a part of many idioms.

Where is the banana?

banana

The banana is in the box.

You could also say, "The banana is inside the box." Remember that you often have more than one choice when deciding on a preposition. The word "in" is a good choice in this case.

Here are some more common examples of "in" as a preposition:

  • She’s living in California. (Use "in" for cities, states, and countries)
  • He’s serving in the marines. (Use "in" for military service)
  • She wants to find a job in health care. (Use "in" for industries and professions.)
  • He works in marketing. (an area of business)

Here are some ways to use "in" as an adjective:

  • Is the doctor in today? (in = available; at work)
  • Those shoes are very in right now. (in = fashionable; popular)
  • Our shipment is in. (in = delivered; ready)

 Here are some ways to use "in" as part of a verb phrase (or idiom):

  • What time did their flight get in? (get in = arrive)
  • Let’s take in a movie. (take in = see)
  • We ordered in last night. (order in = food from a restaurant but you eat it at home)

Here are some ways to use "in" as part of an expression:

  • You’re really in for it now. (in for it = an expectation of punishment)
  • The boss has it in for me. (have it in for someone = to cause big problems for another person)
  • What is he in for? (in for = a reason to be at a place. "In for" is actually another preposition. It’s very popular when used for medical treatment and institutional punishment or prison)
  • He’s in for an exam. (medical treatment)
  • He’s in for armed robbery. (punishment)

Here are some more examples for how to use the word "in.

 

The preposition for today, "from," is very common. It describes the point of origin. It’s the place at which something originates.

sunflower

This picture of a sunflower comes from my garden.

I got it from my garden.

Click here to learn more about how to use the preposition "from."

 

I get a lot of questions from students regarding the preposition "for," especially from beginning level students. This is probably due to the fact that you can use "for" with many different verbs that create many different meanings. Here’s a webpage with some examples of how to use "for," but I’ll also show you a few other things about this preposition right here in the blog:

Use "for" when providing a service or giving something to another person:

  • She works for a big company.
  • He built a house for his family.
  • She’s eating for two. (She’s pregnant and the fetus needs nutrition)
  • Rob and Linda bought a car for their father.
  • I made this website for you!
  • What can I do for you? (How can I help you?)

Use "for" when describing a reason:

  • He’s applying for a job.
  • She donated a large amount of money for cancer research.
  • He works as an accountant for a living. (This is how he makes money)
  • They went to Mexico for vacation.
  • What did you do that for? (This is similar to "Why did you do that?)

In the sentence above, "They went to Mexico for vacation," you could also say, "They went to Mexico on vacation." Remember that there are times when you have more than one choice for a preposition without changing the meaning of the sentence very much.

Use "for" when describing a length of time:

  • I’ve been awake for three hours already. (It’s 7:49 a.m. I woke up at 4:49. "For" is often used with the present perfect tense).
  • They lived in Texas for 15 years.
  • She will be at work for eight hours today.
  • How long will she be there for?

 

This morning I sent out an email to students who signed up to receive lessons and updates for the website. Did you receive an email from me this morning? If not, make sure that you sign up.

Today’s preposition is "during." We use this word to describe something that happens at the same time that something else is happening. For example:

He fell asleep during the movie.

friends at movie theater

What two things happened? He was watching a movie. He fell asleep. Notice that "during" creates a phrase, not a clause, so don’t use subjects and verbs after "during." If you say….

He fell asleep during he was watching the movie.

…that’s wrong.

Look at these additional examples:

He likes to be outside during the summer.

She cried during the wedding.

Don’t talk during the lecture. Listen during the lecture.

Click here to see and hear more examples.

The section for Popular Expressions Used in the U.S. is finished. Click here to take a look.

 

The preposition of the day is "by." The meaning most people know for this word is "near," "next to," or "close."

  • They live by the ocean. (They live near the ocean)
  • There’s a ladder by the side of the house.
  • Come here and sit by me.

The word "by" is also commonly used to show authorship. Who wrote the book, the song, the poem, etc.?

  • This book was written by Mark Twain.
  • Star Wars was written and directed by George Lucas.
  • This is a great song? Who is it by?

The word "by" is also found in many idioms:

  • When are you going to come by? (come by = visit)
  • Watermelons are easy to come by at this time of year. (come by = find)
  • You can tell by the softness of the fruit if it’s ripe or not. (tell by = distinguish; understand)
  • I’ll be by this afternoon. (be by = visit)
  • She needs to drop these books by the library. (drop by = take or visit)

To see more examples of how this preposition is used, click here.

Do you remember what you learned last week? If so, click here for a quiz.

Where is the red box?

     

It’s ______________ the blue box and the yellow box.

Do you know which preposition to use? If not, go to this lesson.

 

The preposition for the day is "beside." It’s similar to "next to" and "by." Many people confuse "beside" with "besides." (Don’t do that!)

Here are some different ways to use beside:

sign farmstand
We saw a farm stand beside a road in the country, so everyone got out of the car to see what the farmers were selling.

There are a lot of farms and farm stands beside roads and highways in Wisconsin.

There’s a wooden statue of a German man beside the store.

or…. Beside the store, there’s a wooden statue of a German man.

statue He’s wearing lederhosen.

Click here for more examples of the preposition "beside."

This week, we’ll study the prepositions beside, between, by, during, for, and from.

The lesson for today is on the preposition "behind."

Do you see a red box in the picture below?

 

No? Well, that’s because it’s behind the blue box. We use the preposition "behind" when something isn’t visible, or it’s only partially visible from the perspective of the viewer. It’s similar to "in back of," but it’s not the same. Look at the picture below:

Where is the boy?   boy  He’s behind the tree.

You can’t see all of him. But you can see part of him. He’s behind something.

The preposition "behind" is also used for time, work, and personal relationships. Here are some sentences that use "behind." Try to guess what they mean.

  1. The train is behind schedule.
  2. The company stands behind the quality of its work.
  3. My horse is falling behind all the others in the race.
  4. What’s behind their decision to move to another state?
  5. I’m behind you 100 percent.

Below are the meanings behind the word "behind" in the sentences above:

  1.  The train is late.
  2. The company guarantees its work.
  3. My horse is losing the race.
  4. What’s the reason for their decision to move?
  5. I support you.

Today’s preposition is a really important one. Many beginning and intermediate learners of English have trouble with "at." It’s often used for time and location, but there are many idiomatic uses as well.

Here are some examples of how to use the preposition "at" for time:

  • The class starts at 8:00.
  • The movie ended at 10:30.
  • She starts work at 6:30 in the morning.

Here are some sentences that use the preposition "at" for location:

  • He works at a big company.
  • All my friends are at work today.
  • I live at 545 Main St. (It’s important to use "at" for a specific address)

There are also many unusual ways to use "at" that might be confusing for you:

  1. Where are you at in this project? (How much progress have you made?)
  2. Where are you at? (What’s your location?)
  3. She doesn’t know where she’s at. (She’s lost.)
  4. Let’s get at it. (Let’s start working or doing something.)
  5. I can’t get at it., (I can’t reach it with my arm or my fingers.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Today’s lesson focuses on the preposition "around." Its meaning is similar to "near," "in the area," or "in the general location."

Here are some examples:

  • A: Are there any good restaurants around here?
  • B: Yes, there’s a good place to eat right around the corner.
  • A:; Where does Tony live nowadays?
  • B: He lives somewhere around Chicago.

"Around" is often used to describe approximate time:

  • A: What time does your family usually eat dinner?
  • B: We usually eat around 5:30.
  • A:When did she leave for work?
  • B: She left around an hour ago.

Here are some idiomatic uses for "around" :

  • I’ll be around later. (I’ll visit or go later)
  • Are you going to be around today? (Will you be available?)
  • Don’t just lie around the house today. Go outside. (lie around= do nothing)

 

The lesson for the day is on the preposition "against." When "against" is used to describe a location, it’s similar to "next to," but the object or person must be very close to another object–usually touching.

   

The red box is against the blue box.

However, in this case it would be better to say…

The red box is next to the blue box.

Here’s another example of how to use "against."

waves

The waves are crashing against the rocks.

The waves are touching the rocks. The waves are next to the rocks, but "next to" would be a bad choice. The preposition "against" is the best choice in this sentence.

"Against" is also used to describe opposition or something that a person doesn’t like. If you don’t like something, you can say that you are "against" it.

  1. I’m against drilling for oil in the oceans.
  2. She’s against the wearing of fur.
  3. He’s working against poverty in poor nations.

"Against" can also be used to describe two sides in opposition in competition or in military conflict:

  1. Spain played against the Netherlands in the World Cup.
  2. Bill and John like to compete against each other.
  3. Germany fought against France during World War II.

Click here for more examples.

 

The preposition "across" is similar to the word "opposite." It looks like this:

across

a ———————————————> b

bear

The bear swam across the river.

He went from one side (a) to the other side (b).

(He went to the opposite side.)

Click here to see and hear some common ways in which the word "across" is used in the United States.

One way of using the word "across" might interest you. When you describe the act of communicating (talking, writing, filmmaking, the creation of art, etc.), many people use "across" with the verb "get."

  1. He’s just trying to get his point across, but she isn’t listening.
  2. The ideas in this TV commercial aren’t getting across to the viewer.
  3. Is there something that you’re trying to get across to me?
  4. What is the teacher trying to get across to the students?
  5. She can’t get across to him the fact that she doesn’t like him very much.
  6. You’re getting across loud and clear.

 

Try not to confuse the preposition "across" with "across from," which is a little different.

across from

x <——————————————–> y

In the picture below, two people are sitting at a table. One is a woman (x) and the other is a man (y), They are sitting across from each other. They are opposite each other at the table. They are facing each other.

two people

In this kind of a situation, you have to add the word "from" to "across." If you say, "They are sitting across each other," that’s not quite right.

Every day during the month of August, I’ll teach you something about each of the prepositions featured on the prepositions page, and because I’m going to go in alphabetical order, today’s lesson is on the preposition "above."

"Above" is similar to "over." Take a look at this picture:

valley

The mountains are above the valley.

or

The clouds are above the mountains.

or

The sky is above the earth.

In addition to the location of things, "above" is found in many expressions:

  1. No one is above the law.
  2. How many people work above you?
  3. The pizza we ate last night was just above average.
  4. I’m not above working with my hands and getting dirty.
  5. She goes above and beyond what is expected of her at work.

What does the word "above" mean in each of these examples?

  1. Everyone must follow the law. The law applies to everybody, no matter how important a person is (kings, presidents, rich people, etc.)
  2. People who work "above" you are supervisors and managers.
  3. "Above average" is okay–not great, but not bad.
  4. Some people believe they don’t have to do manual labor because they are too good for it. They hire other people to do yard work, clean, repair things that are broken, or fix a car.
  5. Doing more work than is necessary shows that a person is motivated and wants to be a good employee. This expression requires the preposition "beyond."

During the month of August, we will work together to learn about prepositions. The pages on my website show examples of the most commonly used prepositions, but not all of them are included. For a more complete list of prepositions, click here.

Prepositions are the most difficult words to learn in English because they are used in a lot of idioms and slang. If you live in a country where English is spoken, it’s easier to learn how to use prepositions. However, if you live in a country where there aren’t a lot of people to practice English with, you must read a lot of English or listen to radio programs in English in order to learn all the odd ways in which prepositions are used. (or read and listen to my blog every day!)

There’s also a big difference between American English and British English when using prepositions. Many speakers of British English, will not end a sentence or question with a preposition. This is actually a grammatical rule. The British follow it and Americans don’t follow it. It’s especially noticeable in questions:

To whom is this letter addressed?

Who is this letter addressed to?

Which of the parking lots should I go into?

Into which of the parking lots should I go?

Of course, some Americans try to use prepostions the way they’re supposed to be used but many don’t. As an English teacher, I don’t consider this kind of a thing a mistake. It’s merely a difference of usage from one speaker of English to the next. But pay close attention. Whether you prefer British or American English, if you make a mistake with a preposition, it’s very noticeable by a native speaker.

 

Click here to go to July 2010

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