Definition and Types of Preposition

Definition and Types of Preposition


The word Preposition means ‘that which is placed before’. Let us look at the definition of prepositions and kinds/types of prepositions.

Definition of Preposition

Prepositions are the words that we put before nouns or pronouns. These denote in what relation the person or thing indicated by it exists, in relation to something else. Look at the examples below.

  1. The child jumped off the bed.
  2. There is a bee in the jar.
  3. Hani is fond of reading novels.

In the first example, the word ‘off ‘is showing the relation between the action denoted by the verb jumped, and the noun chair.

In the second example, the word ‘in’ is showing the relation between bee and the jar.

In the third example, the word ‘of’ is showing the relation between the quality denoted by the adjective fond and the noun cheesecake.

Hence the words offin and of are Prepositions.

Definition of Preposition in Dictionary

Definitions of preposition vary according to different dictionaries.

Click here for definition of preposition in Merriam Webster dictionary.

Click here for definition of preposition in Oxford learner’s dictionary.

Kinds of Prepositions

Prepositions are classified into following categories: Simple Prepositions, Double Prepositions, Compound Prepositions, Phrasal prepositions, Participle Prepositions and Detached Prepositions..

1. Simple Prepositions: 

Simple prepositions are used to denote a relation between nouns or pronouns. These can even be used to join different parts of sentences and clauses. Simple prepositions are one word prepositions. These are also called Single Prepositions. Common words used that come under the category of Simple Prepositions are as follows:

In, out, on, up, at, for, from, by, of, off, through, till, etc

Examples of Simple Prepositions in sentences:

Keep your phones in your pockets.

Staring at people is not considered a good gesture.

In the above two examples, both prepositions consist of one simple word and hence are Single or Simple Prepositions.

2. Double Prepositions: 

Double Prepositions are made by putting together two Single Prepositions. That is why they are called Double Prepositions. Common words used as Double Prepositions are as follows:

Onto, into, throughout, up till, up to, within, without, upon, etc

Examples of Double Prepositions in sentences:

Complete this essay within two hours.

I am going to turn this scrap into a masterpiece.

In the first example, the Preposition within is made by combining two Single Prepositions with and in.

In the second example, the Preposition into is formed by putting together two Simple Prepositions in and two. These are hence Double Prepositions.

3. Compound Prepositions: 

Compound Prepositions are usually formed by prefixing a Preposition to Nouns, Adjectives or Adverbs.  They are different from Double Prepositions because they are not formed by two single prepositions. Common words, which come under the category of Compound Prepositions, are stated below:

Above, about, across, along, before, behind, beside, inside, outside, etc

Examples of Compound Prepositions in sentences:

He was going about his business.

The person beside Ali is my brother.

In the first example, the prefix ‘a’ is added to a root word ‘bout’ to make a preposition. In the second example, the prefix be is added to the root word side to make a preposition. Thus, these words are Compound Prepositions.

4. Phrasal Prepositions: 

Phrasal Prepositions are groups of words or phrases that join the noun or pronoun in a sentence, to the remainder of the sentence. These groups of words express a single idea by coming together as a unit. Words that come under the category of Phrasal Prepositions are as follows:

In addition to, by means of, in spite of, according to, owing to, in favour of, etc

Examples of Phrasal Prepositions in sentences:

He couldn’t pass the test, owing to his lack of knowledge of English Grammar.

She made it to the other side of the world, in spite of all the difficulties.

In the first example, the group of words ‘owing to’ is joining the two sentences with each other and is a phrase. Likewise, the group of words ‘in spite of’ is also a phrase and is working as a preposition. Hence, these are Phrasal Prepositions.

5. Participle Prepositions: 

Participle Prepositions, indicating from their name, are the Present Participle forms of Verbs. These are used without any noun or pronoun attached with them. The words that are distinguished as Participle Prepositions are as follows:

Concerning, considering, barring, notwithstanding, touching, pending, during, etc

Examples of Participle Prepositions in sentences:

Notwithstanding his efforts, he was still fired from the job.

Touching this matter, I do not have much information.

In above examples, both the verbs notwithstanding and touching are in Present Participle which is apparent from the ‘ing’ at the end of both words. These words are therefore Participle Prepositions.

6. Disguised Prepositions: 

Disguised Prepositions are those prepositions which are not used in the sentences directly, but are disguised. Their shorter forms are used. The examples of Disguised Prepositions are ‘a’ and ‘o’.

a’ is shortened form of the preposition ‘on’ and ‘o’ is the shortened form of the preposition ‘of’.

Examples of Disguised Prepositions in sentences:

The ceremony will be held at 5 o’ clock.

We all went to a party.

In the first example, instead of saying ‘5 of the clock’, we have used disguised form of the preposition of.

In the second example, instead of saying ‘went on partying’, we have used abbreviation of the preposition on and disguised the preposition as ‘a’. Hence these are Disguised Prepositions.

7. Detached Prepositions: 

A preposition is called a Detached Preposition when it does not come before its object. It is detached from its object. When the object of a preposition is an interrogative pronoun or a relative pronoun, the preposition comes at the end of the sentence.

Look at the following examples for further understanding.

She is the woman whom I was talking about.

Here are the books that you asked for.

Which of the houses were you working in?

In the first two of the above examples, we can see that because of relative pronouns whom and that, the prepositions about and for are being detached from their objects.

In the third example, the interrogative pronoun ‘which’ is detaching the preposition ‘in’ from its object.

Hence these are all Detached Prepositions.

In this article you learned general definition of preposition, examples of preposition, definition of preposition in major dictionaries, and types of preposition. Visit our website for more articles.

About Authoress: The article “Definition and Types of Preposition” was written by Sayeda Javaria. (