We’ve talked about prepositions in the past: in, on, at, for, to…..

ESL students know how frustrating it can be to figure out which preposition to use in different situations:

I’ll meet you at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, on Monday the 27th of March, in the café next to the bank.

You might remember that a preposition can change the meaning of a phrase. Think about the difference between the following phrases:

  • Look at me, I’m flying!
  • I’m looking for my keys. I lost them yesterday.
  • My accountant told me about a new investment scheme that I should look into.
  • I have to go to the bank. Can you look after my kids till I get back?
  • look up to my brother. I want to be just like him when I grow up.

If you’re a Hebrew speaker then you’ll notice that each phrase has a completely different Hebrew translation, even though they are all variations of the word “look”.

Another confusing thing about prepositions is what happens when we add an object to a verb. In some cases a preposition will come between the verb and the object and in other cases, the object will come directly after the verb:

  • Eat something! (No preposition)
  • We are going to the park. (Preposition between verb and object)

Let’s look at some examples in which adding a preposition changes the meaning of a phrase in comparison to the same word being used without a preposition:

  • I believe you. (no preposition)
  • I believe in you (preposition changes the meaning of the phrase)
  • I stopped smoking (no preposition)
  • I stopped to smoke (preposition changes meaning of the phrase)
  • He got the money (no preposition)
  • He got in the door (preposition changes meaning of the phrase)
  •  He broke his own record. (no preposition)
  •  She broke into the house during the night to steal the jewels. (preposition changes meaning of the phrase)


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