I put together a list of 50 of the most common English prepositions with definitions and natural example sentences. Prepositions can be difficult to learn, but I have found using them in natural sentences is the best way to help you understand and remember these important words.
Keep reading to learn how I made this list and see these common prepositions used in real examples.
What is a Preposition?
Prepositions are an important part of any language. They can show how things relate in time and in place or position.
- Let’s meet at 7:30.
- Let’s meet at the park by the green bench.
Prepositions can also indicate a method, or how something is done.
- Can I pay by credit card?
Preposition Word Origin
late Middle English: from Latin praepositio(n-), from the verb praeponere, from prae ‘before’ + ponere ‘to place’.
What are the Most Common Prepositions? (How I made this list)
There are several resources online that collect information to see how often a word is used in the English language. A popular resource is https://www.english-corpora.org/. This is a listing of many online English corpora. (Corpora is the plural form of the noun corpus. A corpus is a collection of written or spoken texts.)
I compared some common preposition word lists from different English websites and chose the words that I found on every list.
Next, I sorted the word list into alphabetical order, then I added preposition definitions along with real example sentences so you can see how these words are used in natural English conversation.
You’ll find links for the lists I compared at the bottom of this post.
Prepositions List With Examples
I only chose single-word prepositions for this list. Prepositional phrases like in front of are not included.
Many of the prepositions have multiple meanings and can be used to relate things in time, place, position, and method. When you click on the word you’ll be taken to its definition page at Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries.com. There you can find the different meanings and uses, plus correct pronunciation audio.
I’ve generally chosen the most common meaning and written an example for that meaning.
about – on the subject of somebody/something; in connection with somebody/something
- The school board had a meeting to talk about building a new soccer field at the high school.
above – at or to a higher place or position than something/somebody
- At the top of the mountain, I was standing above the clouds. It was really cool.
across – from one side to the other side of something
- When the light turned green we walked across the street.
after – later than something; following something in time
- Terry and I went for a coffee after the movie.
against – opposing or disagreeing with somebody/something
- The government wants to build a car factory near the park. The townspeople are against it.
along – from one end to or towards the other end of something
- We walked along the road until it came to the ocean.
among – surrounded by somebody/something; in the middle of somebody/something
- You can speak freely here, you’re among friends.
around – surrounding somebody/something; on each side of something
- She threw her arms around me and gave me a big kiss.
at – used to say where something/somebody is or where something happens/used to say when something happens
- Let’s meet at the park at 7:30.
A more detailed study of the prepositions IN, AT, and ON here:
How to Use the prepositions IN AT ON (Graphics, Story, Videos)
before – earlier than somebody/something
- You shouldn’t stretch before you run. You need to warm up your muscles first.
behind – at or towards the back of somebody/something, and often hidden by it or them
- The people sitting behind me at the theater were talking during the whole movie.
below – at or to a lower level, position or place
- The people who live in the apartments below me a quite noisy.
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beneath – in or to a lower position than somebody/something; under somebody/something
- Rescue workers used drones to find people trapped beneath the collapsed building after the earthquake.
beside – next to or at the side of somebody/something
- At school, I always try to sit beside a smart kid. That way they can help me if I don’t understand the teacher.
between – in or into the space separating two or more points, objects, people, etc.
- A better strategy is to sit between two smart kids.
beyond – more than something
- Yohan always does above and beyond what you ask him to do something. He’s a great worker.
but – except; apart from
- Everyone but Joe came to the party.
- All the lights in the park are solar, they are powered by the sun.
A more detailed study of the preposition BY here:
5 Ways the preposition BY can make you a better speaker (PDF)
despite – used to show that something happened or is true although something else might have happened to prevent it
- The project failed, despite his best efforts to make it work.
down – from a high or higher point on something to a lower one
- The police found him laying by the car with blood running down his face.
during – all through a period of time
- The people sitting behind me at the theater were talking during the whole movie.
except – used before you mention the only thing or person about which a statement is not true
- Everyone came to the party except Joe.
for – in order to help somebody/something
- Your suitcases look heavy, let me carry them for you.
A more detailed study of the preposition FOR here:
The English preposition FOR (Your #1 guide + Video)
from – used to show where somebody/something starts
- The bus from the airport should be arriving soon.
We use ON for vehicles if we can stand up while riding.
- on a boat
- on the train
- on an airplane
in – within the shape of something; surrounded by something/after a particular length of time
- Will is working in the garage, he should be done in about 20 minutes.
inside – on or to the inner part of something/somebody; within something/somebody
- I found a pen inside one of the desk drawers.
into – to a position in or inside something
- It is very hot today. When I get home I’m going to run straight into the backyard and jump in the pool.
A more detailed study of the prepositions TO, INTO, and IN TO here:
Prepositions TO, INTO or IN TO? (Intermediate English)
like – similar to somebody/something
- Caroline looks like her mother.
near – at a short distance away from somebody/something
- When I retire I want to live near the ocean.
of – belonging to somebody; relating to somebody
- Patrick is a good friend of mine. I have known him since junior high school.
A more detailed study of the preposition OF here:
How to use Adjectives with the preposition OF (English grammar guide)
off – down or away from a place or at a distance in space or time
- Lily fell off the balcony and broke her leg.
on – in or into a position covering, touching or forming part of a surface
- And University I put a motivational poster on the wall in front of my desk.
Understand the difference between IN TIME and ON TIME here:
ON time or IN time? (Learn FAST with Video)
onto – used with verbs to express movement on or to a particular place or position
- As soon as I stepped onto the boat it started rocking side to side. I felt ill.
out – away from the inside of a place or thing
- Every morning I wake up, get out of bed, and drink a big glass of water.
outside – not part of something
- I’d like to help you but I’m afraid this is outside my area of expertise.
over – resting on the surface of somebody/something and partly or completely covering them/it
- It’s polite to put your hand over your mouth when you cough in public.
past – later than something/on or to the other side of somebody/something
- The movie starts at a quarter past two. (2:15)
- My office is on Center Street, one block past the post office.
since – from a time in the past until a later past time, or until now
- You’re late, I’ve been waiting here since 1:30.
through – from one end or side of something/somebody to the other
- I left my keys at the office so I had to get in through the unlocked basement window.
throughout – in or into every part of something
- My school holds special events throughout the year.
to – in the direction of something; towards something
- During the summer I always ride my bike to work.
More great Preposition TO blog posts here:
Verbs with the prepositions TO and AT (Video + PDF)
The difference between To and For (30+ examples Learn fast)
towards – with the aim of obtaining something, or helping somebody to obtain something
- The money that my team raises will go towards new uniforms.
under – in, to or through a position that is below something
- When I was in elementary school I used to be scared of monsters living under my bed.
underneath – under or below something else, especially when it is hidden or covered by the thing on top
- I dropped my pen and it rolled underneath the desk.
until – up to the point in time or the event mentioned
- I have to stay at work until this assignment is finished.
up – to or in a higher position somewhere
- My apartment is on the 5th floor so I use the stairs more than the elevator. Walking up stairs is great exercise.
upon – the same as on
- You have to fill out any forms upon arrival to the country.
with – in the company or presence of somebody/something
- Murphy lives with two of his friends from University.
Understand the difference between STAY WITH and STAY AT here:
English preposition practice – WITH or AT
within – before a particular period of time has passed; during a particular period of time
- Whenever I order something from Amazon it always arrives within 1 or 2 days.
without – not having, experiencing or showing something
- I almost didn’t recognize Raymond last night. He looks different without his glasses.
Across Versus Through
Some of my students ask me to explain the difference between across and through.
Across – a preposition that means “from one side of something to the other side.” This is often used with verbs of movement.
- Walk across the street.
- Swim across the lake.
- Drive across the city.
Another meaning is on the other side (of something). This is commonly used when you describe the location of something. (Where something is, was, or will be.)
- The cafe is across the street.
- My friend had a cottage across the lake.
- Our office is moving across the city.
Through – from one side of something/somebody to another
This has a similar meaning to across but we use it more for things with some space inside to move. You are inside something for a moment.
- We drove through a tunnel. (We were inside a tunnel.)
- The burglar got in through the window. (He used the window to get inside the house.)
- The police had to walk through the crowd to get to the scene. (They were inside the crowd.)
Across is more common with open spaces
- She walked across the field.
- The players skated across the ice.
~ Some places can use both prepositions:
She walked through the park. OK (She was inside the park.)
She walked across the park. OK (She walked from one side to the other.)
~ Some cannot
across a tunnel. NG
The players skated
through the ice. NG (This has a completely different meaning.)
Going across the ice is safe. You are on the other side of the lake.
Going through the ice is dangerous. You are in the water now!
Printable Preposition PDF E-guide
Download your printable PDF E-guide below. (It’s FREE!)
Some more helpful preposition blog posts:
Adjectives + Prepositions (95 Common Combinations)
Nouns + Prepositions – 75 Real Examples (Intermediate)
General English Preposition Quiz (Test your Knowledge)
Good At or Good In (or Good With?) Your complete guide
Apply TO or Apply FOR? (Over 30 real examples and a QUIZ)