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Lesson 1.5 Prepositions

downloadable worksheet


Prepositions’ main job is to relate two parts of the sentence to each other. Many of them convey some kind of directional or locational meaning; an old trick to help you remember what (certain directional) prepositions are is to think of them as “anything a squirrel can do to a tree” or maybe you want to add “anything a squirrel can do to a tree or the things around the tree:


The squirrel went above, across, along, behind, below, between, beyond, down, in, into, in, over, through, to, up… the tree.


But language changes, and many of those spatial relations have been extended, often metaphorically, to convey other kinds of meanings like time (by 6 o’clock), manner (by train), accompaniment (with fries), among others. What do the underlined prepositions mean in these examples?


            I am against the idea.

            The poem was written by my friend.

            She wore a shirt with stripes.

            They hit the ball with a stick           

            We should make cookies for the party.


And prepositions vary among speakers. Which of the following do you say?


            I waited in line for the movie.                         OR                   I waited on line for the movie.

            I picked up the wrong shirt on accident.       OR                   I picked up the wrong shirt by accident.

            I feel sick to my stomach.                                OR        I feel sick at my stomach.        OR           I feel sick on my stomach.


The fact that we can use different prepositions shows that they really don’t have a much meaning; they serve an important purpose to relate parts of the sentence to each other, but their meaning has changed over time from being meaningful (content words) to more functional (function words). See the chart in Lesson 1.9.


In a book or other text, work with someone to find all of the prepositions. Remember, most prepositions are followed by a noun phrase. And there might be some “fake” prepositions that actually belong with the verb. We’ll take a look at those in Lesson 1.6. Subordinate prepositions are discussed in Lesson 2.3.



key words: prepositions, particles


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1a Explain the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in general and their functions in particular sentences. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships (e.g., After dinner that night we went looking for them). 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.1e Form and use prepositional phrases.


Here is this lesson as a pdf.



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