How to Use Prepositions With Nouns in English

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A preposition is a word that expresses relations. Paired with a noun, a preposition can tell you precisely where an object is or the means by which something is accomplished. Prepositions are easy to spot because they typically follow the noun or pronoun that they modify.

Common Prepositions

There are dozens of prepositions in the English language. This tutorial focuses on some of the most common. As you continue to learn English, take note of common combinations of words such as nouns plus verbs or other phrases that go together. 

By

This preposition expresses causality or authorship. For example:

I paid the bill by check.

I broke the vase by mistake.

I'm afraid I bought the wrong book by mistake.

I saw Jack at the supermarket by chance.

The opera "Otello" is by Giuseppe Verdi.

For

Use this preposition to indicate an objective.

Let's go for a walk.

We went for a swim as soon as we arrived.

Would you like to come over for a drink?

I'd love to come for a visit sometime.

For example, the chairs have not been replaced in months. 

We should take a week off to relax. For instance, we could go to the beach.

In

This preposition expresses a conditional state of being.

I fell in love with my wife at first sight.

Call me in case he needs some help tomorrow.  

You'll find that he is, in fact, a very kind person. 

Is Alan in the picture anymore? 

On

Use this preposition to indicate a state of being or an intention.

Help! The house is on fire!

I really need to go on a diet.

He went away this weekend on business.

Did you break that glass on purpose? 

We went on an excursion to Versailles when we were in Paris.

Of

This preposition expresses causality or the relationship between subjects.

She is the cause of all his problems.

He took a photograph of the mountains.

To

This preposition indicates the recipient of an action. It can also indicate destination.

I did a lot of damage to my car the other day.

We were invited to their wedding.

Your attitude to your problems doesn't help them get resolved.

With

Use this to describe relationships or connections.

My friendship with Mary is wonderful.

Have you had any contact with Sarah?

Between

This preposition expresses the relationship between two or more things.

The bond between the two friends was very strong.

There is little contact between the two parents.

There is no difference between those two colors.

Test Your Knowledge

Now that you have studied the various preposition noun formulas, take this quiz to test your understanding. Fill in the gaps in the sentences with the appropriate preposition.

  1. _____ case you are in town, give Peter a call.
  2. I promise you I didn't do that _____ purpose. 
  3. Let's go _____ a swim in the ocean!
  4. I've just seen Selene _____ chance. She was very friendly. 
  5. _____ my opinion, you shouldn't worry so much about your grades. 
  6. Why don't you come over ______ a visit? I'd love to catch up.
  7. I really need to go _____ a diet. I'm 20 pounds overweight. 
  8. I think I'll have some pasta and a salad _____ dinner tonight. 
  9. Have you ever gone _____ an excursion that surprised you?
  10. May I pay _____ check, or would you prefer a credit card?
  11. What else is _____ this picture?
  12. There are many choices. _____ example, you could move to China. 
  13. I'd like to eat at home _____ a change. 
  14. You'll find that he's a very nice guy. _____ fact, I'd say he's one of the nicest people I know.
  15. I heard this great show_____ the radio the other night.

Quiz Answers

  1. in
  2. on
  3. for
  4. by
  5. in
  6. for
  7. on
  8. for
  9. on
  10. by
  11. in
  12. for
  13. for
  14. in
  15. on

Additional Resources

Want to learn more? Challenge yourself and try this follow-up nouns prepositions quiz to learn more common combinations in English.