Prepositions connect nouns or pronouns to other words in a sentence. Two of the most common prepositions are the words of and for. The words that follow the preposition become part of the prepositional phrase. Other common prepositions can be recognized by picturing how an airplane flies in a cloudy sky. 

The airplane can fly _______ the clouds.

A word that can fill in the blank is likely a preposition.

Common Prepositions

Common Prepositions

Preposition Rules

  1. Wordy sentences
    If your sentences are wordy, locate the prepositional phrases and eliminate any that are not essential. The sentence below is wordy. The second sentence shows prepositional phrases in parentheses.
    • John went to town on his bicycle with his sister to buy groceries for dinner on Saturday.
    • John went (to town)(on his bicycle)(with his sister)(to buy groceries)(for dinner)(on Saturday).
    Only one prepositional phrase is necessary to state a complete thought. Therefore, the other prepositional phrases may be eliminated. The sentences below are correct.
    • John went to town
    • John went to buy groceries.
  2. Business or academic writing
    In business or academic writing, try to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.
    • INCORRECT: I told the clerk his behavior was something I could not put up with.
    • CORRECT: I told the clerk I could not tolerate his behavior.
  3. The preposition UP
    Do not add the preposition up to verbs such as call, divide, or drink.
    • INCORRECT: He called up the client to discuss the case.
    • CORRECT: He called the client to discuss the case.
  4. Prepositions OF or FROM 
    Do not add the preposition of or from to the word off.
    • INCORRECT: He jumped off of the step.
    • CORRECT: He jumped off the step.
  5. Specific prepositions
    Certain terms require specific prepositions.  Make sure to use the correct preposition, as shown below.
    • according to / conform to / plan to (not  on)
    • agree on / conform with / retroactive to (not from)
    • agree to / correspond to/  similar to (not with)
    • agree with / correspond with / try to see (not try and see)
    • capable of / different from (not than)
    • comply with/  identical with (not to)
  6. New meanings Sometimes a preposition is used with a verb to form a phrase that has a meaning different from the literal meaning of the words. We use many of these phrases, or idioms, when we speak. Avoid them in formal writing; they may be considered jargon or slang.
    • Instead of: get away from USE leave
    • Instead of: catch up with USE meet
    • Instead of: get over USE recover from
    • Instead of: look up to USE admire
    • Instead of: look into USE examine
    • Instead of: put up with USE tolerate
    • Instead of: take after USE resemble
    • Instead of: run across USE meet unexpectedly