Northcentral University Writing Center
Selecting Prepositions, Part 2


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Writing Center

Selecting Prepositions: Part 2

Prepositions: Using the Appropriate Preposition

 

Each preposition serves a specific purpose to initiate the phrase that follows. Understanding these uses will prepare the writer to create maximum clarity for the reader.

 

IN                     Use in with spaces

                                    In a garden

                                    In a room

                        Use in with bodies of water

                                    In the sea

                                    In a river

                        Use in with lines

                                    In a row

                                    In a queue

                        Use in with static (non-movement) verbs & cities, countries, states, etc

                                    Stay in the US

                                    Work in New York

                        Use in for months, years, and periods of time

                                    In January

                                    In 1998

                        Use in for a period of time in the future

                                    In a few weeks

                                    In a few hours

 

AT                    Use at with places

                                    At the bus-stop

                                    At the door

                        Use at with places on the page

                                    At the top

                                    At the bottom

                        Use at with groups of people

                                    At the back of the class

                                    At the front of class

                        Use at with static (non-movement) verbs and places

                                    At the cinema

                                    At work

                        Use at with precise time

                                    At 10:30

                                    At two pm

 

ON                   Use on with surfaces

                                    On the table

                                    On the desk

                        Use on with small islands

                                    On Maui

                                    On Davis Island

                        Use on with directions

                                    On the left

                                    One the right

                        Use on with days of the week

                                    On Monday

                                    On Tuesday

                        Use on with specific calendar days

                                    On Halloween

                                    On October 29th

 

 

TO                    Use to with verbs of movement such as go, come, drive, etc.

                                    Go to work

                                    Drive to Las Vegas

 

FOR                 Use for with a period of time to express the duration

                                    For three weeks

                                    For many months

 

WHILE              Use while plus a verb form

                                    While I was watching TV

                                    While I lived in New York

 

DURING            Use during with a noun to express when something happens

                                    During class

                                    During my vacation

 

Important Notes:           We say “in the corner of a room,” but “at the corner of a street.”

                                    We say “in the front” and “at the back” of buildings.

                                    We say “on the front” and “on the back” of a piece of paper.

 

Prepositional Phrase Reference

 

AT

BY

FOR

FROM

UNDER

WITHOUT

At first

By accident

For now

From now on

Under age

Without fail

At least

By far

For instance

From then on

Under control

Without notice

At most

By all means

For example

From bad to worse

Under the impression

Without exception

At times

By heart

For sale

From my point of view

Under guarantee

Without someone’s consent

At any rate

By chance

For a while

From what I understand

Under the influence of

Without success

At last

By and by

For the moment

From personal experience

Under obligation

Without warning.

At the latest

By the way

For ages

 

Under suspicion

 

At once

By the time

For a change

 

Under his thumb

 

At short notice

By no means

For better or worse

 

Under discussion

 

At an advantage

By name

 

 

Under consideration

 

At a disadvantage

By sight

 

 

 

 

At risk

By now

 

 

 

 

At a profit

By then

 

 

 

 

At a loss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For information on making the right choice when choosing a preposition, see Selecting Prepositions, Part 1 located in the Revising the Draft for Style section of the NCU Writing Center. Additionally, writers are also encouraged to visit the Writing Centers at Colorado, Purdue, and Chapel Hill.