Confusing Preposition Pairs in English

Learn the differences between these commonly confused prepositions

Hispanic woman removing book from shelf
JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

There are a number of confusing preposition pairs in English which make up some of the most common mistakes in English. This article focuses on some of the most common pairs of prepositions that are easily exchanged for each other. These pairs include:

in / into 
on / onto
among / between 
like / as 
beside / besides
around / about
from / of
from / than

In / Into 

'Into' and 'in' refer to three dimensional spaces.

However, 'into' is used with movement from one place into another. 'Into' is often used to express that something moves from the outdoors into an inside space. For example, I walked into the house.  'In' is used when a thing or person is stationary 'in' a place. For example, I found the book in the drawer. 

Examples

Jack drove his car into the garage.
My friend lives in that house.
The teacher came quickly into the room and began the lesson.
The dishes are in that cupboard.
 

On / Onto

'Onto' and 'on' are similar in their differences to 'into' and 'in'. 'Onto' indicates that something is placed onto something else. For example, I put the dishes onto the table when I set it. 'On' shows that something already rests on a surface. For example, The picture is hanging on the wall. 

Examples

I carefully placed the picture onto the wall.
He put the book onto the desk.
You can find the dictionary on the table.
That's a beautiful picture on the wall.

Like / As 

'Like' and 'as' are easily confused. Use 'like' to state that someone is similar to another. Use 'as' to describe the function of a person or object such as a tool. For example, Jack enjoys golf like his father. Alan works as a teacher in that school.

Examples

My brother is like my mother, but I'm like my father.
Use that computer as your server.
Jennifer is just like Susan. They both love jazz.
He's employed as a bookkeeper. 

Among / Between 

'Among' and 'between' are almost exactly the same in meaning. However, 'between' is used when something is placed between two objects. 'Among', on the other hand, is used when something is placed among many objects. For example, The dictionary is among those books on the table.  My car is parked between the Mercedes and the BMW.

Examples

Tom is between Mary and Helen in that picture.
You'll find the letter among the papers on the table.
Seattle is located between Vancouver, Canada and Portland, Oregon.
Alice is among friends this weekend.

Beside / Besides

'Beside' and 'Besides' are easy to mistake because the only difference is the letter 's'. However, the meanings are very different. 'Beside' - without an s- means 'next to'. For example, Tom is seated beside Alice. 'Besides' - with an 's' - states that something is in addition to something else. For example, Besides math, Peter is getting an A in history.

Examples

Hang your coat beside mine over there.
There is so much work to do besides the normal tasks. 
Come sit down beside me.
Besides potatoes, we need some milk.

Around / About

'Around' indicates that something moves in a circular motion, or from one place to the next. For example, Peter walked around the room helping students.

'About' is used to state an approximate amount or number - University costs about $50,000 per year at a private school. That's crazy!

Examples

Drive around the block and pick up Tim.
I'd like to spend about an hour relaxing.
She flew around the US on vacation last year.
It'll cost about $300 to fix your refrigerator. 

From / Of

'From' is used to indicate the origin of someone or something. 'Of' on the other hand indicates possession or a property of something. For example, Alice comes from Seattle. She's the president of her hockey club.

Examples

Those tools are from Germany.
His parents love food from Italy.
What's the name of that city?
I'm the son of John and Marjorie.