Prepositions: uses and misuses

Prepositions generally give information on location, time and place in connection with people, things and events. They tell us the physical position of an entity, the period of an event and the realistic relationship between people, things and locations.

They’re usually followed by nouns or noun phrases.

Examples of prepositions: about, around, above, in, at, by, beneath, against, among, anti, along, below, beside, near, to, of, off, on, towards, down, during, instead of, according to, apart from, ahead of, in spite of, in place of, except for, etc.

Note: instead is an adverb, instead of is a preposition.


  1. The bag floated on the river.
  2. Put the food in the fridge.
  3. Amaka was praised by her boss.
  4. Congratulations on your achievement.
  5. My friend lived in Bahamas.
  6. We can take a walk instead of going by bus.

Note: by can be used as a preposition (when it is followed by a noun) or as an adverb (without a noun after it)


  1. He stood by the river. (preposition)
  2. As days went by, the news of his disappearance spread among his kins. (adverb)

Common uses and misuses:
* Don’t use discuss about…, use discuss…


  1. We discussed the vision of the organisation.

* Some grammarians believe die from is incorrect. However, both die of and die from are correct.


  1. He died of cancer.
  2. He died from stroke.

Some analogies intend to prove that we use die of when we know the direct cause of death, while we use die from when we know the indirect cause. However, no known explanation has explicitly proved this notion.

* ‘On the bed’ means on top of the covers.
In bed’ means under the covers.


  1. Tope is sick, he is in bed.
  2. When you are tired, just lie on the bed and close your eyes.

* Use ‘good at‘ not ‘good in‘.


  1. I’m good at English but I’m bad at Maths and I’m terrible at History.

Generally, prepositions are not easy to teach because you might not be able to say why a particular one is suitable in a sentence and others are not even when they all seem correct. Native speakers are able to use them appropriately due to daily usage, and that’s how non-native speakers can learn too.


2 thoughts on “Prepositions: uses and misuses

  1. Wow! Truly educative. As a second language user of English and a teacher I know the problems we often encounter in the appropriate usage of preposition.

  2. That’s why we all keep learning every day. Kudos to you.

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