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The common run of prepositions usually establishes a space or time relationship

between ideas within a phrase, clause, or sentence, and they can be divided into
five groups:
1. The prepositions of place and location: in, at, and on
2. The prepositions of motion: to, toward, in, and into
3. The prepositions of movement and direction: to, onto, and into
4. The prepositions for specific points of time: on, at, in, and after
5. The prepositions for periods or extended time: since, for, by, from
fromuntil, before, during, within, between, and beyond.

Rules for Usage:


The prepositions in, at, and on for indicating place and location. The general
rule is to use in for an enclosed space, at for a point, and on for a surface.
Here are some specific guidelines for their use in American English:

Use in for spaces: They always meet in a secret room [in a suburban hotel, in a
parking lot, in a farm, in a ricefield].

Use in for names of specific land areas: She lives in a quiet town [in Tagaytay, in
Cavite, in Southern Tagalog, in the island of Palawan, in the Philippines, in Southeast

Use in for bodies of water: That kind of fish thrives in freshwater [in the river, in
the lake, in streams, in the sea].

Use in for lines: The registrants are in a row [in a line, in a queue].

Use at to indicate points: Youll find us at the entrance [at the taxi stand, at the
supermarket, at the intersection].

Use at for specific addresses, as in She lives at 40 Lilac St.

Use on for names of streets, roads, avenues, and boulevards: Her apartment is
on San Pablo Street [on Ortigas Avenue, on Santolan Road, on Roxas Boulevard].

Use on for surfaces: Theres a large stain on the floor [on the wall, on the ceiling,
on the roof].
The prepositions in, at, and on for indicating location.

Use in in these cases: The children are in the kitchen [in the garden, in the car, in
the library, in the class, in school]. (The article the is mandatory except for the
fourth and last example.)

Use at in these particular cases: She was at home [at the library, at the office, at
school, at work] when we arrived.

Use on in these particular cases: They are on the plane [on the train, on the

Some locations, though, dont need a preposition between them and the verb:
They sleep downstairs [inside, outside, downtown, upstairs, uptown].

Rules for Usage:


The prepositions of motion to, toward, in, and into. These four prepositions
link the verbs of movementmove, go, transfer, walk, run, swim,
ride, drive, fly, travel, and many moreto their object destination. All of
these verbs, except transfer, can take both to and toward.

We must keep in mind, however, that to is used to convey the idea of movement
toward a specific destination, while toward is used to convey movement in a
general direction that may not reach a specific destination:

Please take me to the bus station.

(The speaker obligates the listener to specifically take him to a particular place.)

The speedboat headed toward the harbor.

(The speaker indicates only a movement in a general direction.)

We can actually interchange into and in more or less freely when used with
verbs of motion. There are exceptions, though. We can only use in (or inside)
when the preposition is the last word in the sentence or occurs right before an
adverbial of time (today, tomorrow), manner (quickly, hurriedly) or
frequency (once, twice).

Examples: The woman went into the managers office. The woman went in
twice. The woman went in. The new tenants moved into the apartment
yesterday The new tenants moved in hurriedly. The new tenants moved in.
We can also use into as the last word in a question: What sort of trouble have
you gotten yourself into? But we should use in if the question is said in this form:
What sort of trouble are you in?

In/into also has two unique uses with the verb move. The first is when move in
is followed by a clause indicating purpose or motive: The hunters moved in for the
kill. The soldiers moved in for the attack. In both examples, in is part of the
verb phrase, so we cannot use into.

The second case is when we use into with move to convey the idea of simple
movement: The firemen moved into the burning building.

The prepositions of direction to, onto, and into. These prepositions correspond
to the common prepositions of location: to for at, onto for on, and into for
in. Each is defined by the same space relations of point, line, surface, or area as in
the prepositions of location.

To, the basic directional preposition, signifies orientation toward a goal. If that
goal is physical, like a specific destination, to conveys the idea of movement in
the direction of that goal: The troops returned to their base.

Toward, of course, also works as a directional preposition, and means about the
same thing as the directional preposition to. If the goal is not a physical place, as
in an action, to simply puts the verb in the infinitive form to express a particular
purpose: She sings to earn extra money. She cut her hair to show her

The directional prepositions onto and into are, as we know, compounds formed
by to with corresponding prepositions of location: on + to = onto, to signify
movement toward a surface, and in + to = into, to signify movement inside a finite
three-dimensional space or volume.

When used with many verbs of motion, however, on and in already have a
directional meaning. We therefore can freely use them instead of onto and into.
Note that on and onto work equally well in the following sentences: The cats
fell on [onto] the floor. The whales washed up onto [on] the beach. The girl
jumped into [in] the river.

You will notice, however, that always, the compound locational prepositions onto
and into convey the consummation of an action, while the simple locational
prepositions on and in indicate the subjects end-position as a result of the

Lets look at some examples.

Consummation of action: The boy fell onto [to] the ground. The sailor dived into
[to] the pool.

Position of subject: The boy is on the ground. The sailor is in the pool.

Now we discover something interesting: directional prepositions actually serve to

convey the idea of cause, while locational prepositions serve to convey the idea of
effect. This, in fact, is as near a rule of thumb as we can get in dealing with these
two kinds of prepositions.

We cannot leave this subject, of course, without discussing at as a preposition of

motion and direction. Being the least specific of the prepositions in space
orientation, we can use at in a good number of ways.

To mark a verb of motion directed towards a point: She arrived at the airport late.
The marksman aimed at the hostage-taker with precision.

To indicate direction: The man leaped at the thief to subdue him. She jumped at
me without warning.

Rules for Usage:


The prepositions for specific points in time: on, at, in, and after.

On is used with the days of the week: We are going out on Monday [on Tuesday,
on Sunday].

On is used for specific dates (optional in informal usage): The trade fair will start
on March 12, 2003 [on March 12, on the 12th of March, on the 12th ].

At is used with clocked time: She picks her son from school at 4:30 p.m.

At is used with the following times of the day: noon, night, midnight,
sunrise, sunset: We sail for Palawan at noon [at midnight, at sunrise].

At is used with certain major holidays (without the word Day) as points of time:
The family always gets together at Thanksgiving [at Christmas, at Easter, at

In is used with the following times of the day: morning, afternoon, evening:
She waters her roses in the morning [in the afternoon, in the evening].

In is used with dates that do not carry the specific day: The Spanish explorer
reached the Philippines in March 1521.

In is used with months, years, decades, and centuries as points of time: The
famous writer was born in April [in 1946, in the 1940s, in the 20th century].

In is used with the seasons as points of time: He promised not to leave her in
autumn [in summer, in spring, in winter].

After is used with events that happen later than another event or point of time:
The overseas worker came home only after the holidays.

The prepositions for periods or extended time: since, for, by,,
from...until, during, within, between, and beyond.

Since is used with an event that happens at some time or continuously after
another time or event: She has not watched a movie since last month. They have
been producing noodles since the war.

For is used with particular durations: Our president will be abroad for three
weeks [not for long, for most of next month].

By is used with an act completed or to be completed by a certain time: She

expects to finish writing the book by April [by then, by the second quarter]. is used to refer to the beginning and end of an activity or event: The
weather was stormy from Wednesday to Friday.

From...until is used to refer to the beginning of one period to the beginning of

another: Our sales rose continuously from Christmas until right before Holy Week.

During is used to refer to a period of time in which an event happens or an

activity is done: She had coffee during the morning break.

Between is used to refer to an action taking place between the beginning and the
end of a period: You must get the job done between now and Friday.

Within is used to refer to an action that must take place or be completed within a
given period: You must get the job done within the week.

Beyond is used to refer to a period of time after a particular event has taken place
or a particular time has elapsed: Beyond the mid-1990s all of our offices had
shifted to word processors.

Prepositions for specific time frames. In is used with the three basic time frames:
past, present, future: He was a kindly man in the past. She is doing nothing
in the present [ present is the preferred usage at present]. In the future,
change the oil of your car regularly.

In is used with prescribed time periods: The project must be completed in a

month [in a year, in five years].