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Author Topic: The preposition as another type of functional connective - 2  (Read 337 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: June 14, 2017, 12:47:26 PM »

In English, the common run of prepositions establishes a space or time relationship between ideas within a phrase, clause, or sentence. They fall under five groups: (1) the prepositions of place and location, namely “in,” “at,” and “on”; (2) the prepositions of motion, namely “to,” “toward,” “in,” and “into”; (3) the prepositions of movement and direction, namely “to,” “onto,” and “into”; (4) the prepositions for specific points of time, namely “on,” “at,” “in,” and “after”; and (5) the prepositions for periods or extended time, namely “since,” “for,” “by,” “from…to,” “from…until,” “before,” “during,” “within,” “between,” and “beyond.”


Other than these five, there’s another group of prepositions that establishes specific logical relationships. They work like the conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs—but with a big difference. These prepositions do their connecting job within the same clause or phrase, in contrast to the conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs, which do theirs between clauses, across sentences, or across paragraphs. An example of such prepositions is “besides,” which establishes an additive relationship between “fiction” and “movies” in this single-clause sentence: “She loves reading fiction besides watching movies.”

Before taking up the prepositions with conjunctive properties, however, let’s first review the prepositions that establish relationships in space and time and those that indicate movement and direction.

The prepositions “in,” “at,” and “on” for indicating place and location. The general rule is to use “in” for an enclosed space, “at” for a point, and “on” for a surface. Here are specific guidelines for their use in American English:

Use “in” for spaces: “They always meet in a secret room [in a suburban hotel, in a parking lot, in a farm, in a ricefield].”

Use “in” for names of specific land areas: “She lives in a quiet town [in Tagaytay, in Cavite, in Southern Tagalog, in the island of Palawan, in the Philippines, in Southeast Asia].

Use “in” for bodies of water: “That kind of fish thrives in freshwater [in the river, in the lake, in streams, in the sea].”

Use “in” for lines: “The registrants are in a row [in a line, in a queue].”

Use “at” to indicate points: “You’ll find us at the entrance [at the taxi stand, at the supermarket, at the intersection].”

Use “at” for specific addresses, as in “She lives at 40 Lilac St.”

Use “on” for names of streets, roads, avenues, and boulevards: “Her apartment is on San Rafael Street [on Ortigas Avenue, on Santolan Road, on Roxas Boulevard].”

Use “on” for surfaces: “There’s a large stain on the floor [on the wall, on the ceiling, on the roof].”


The prepositions “in,” “at,” and “on” for indicating location. Use “in” in these cases: “The children are in the kitchen [in the garden, in the car, in the library, in the class, in school]. (The article “the” is mandatory except for the fourth and last example.)

Use “at” in these particular cases: “She was at home [at the library, at the office, at school, at work] when we arrived.”

Use “on” in these particular cases: “They are on the plane [on the train, on the boat].”

Some locations, though, don’t need a preposition between them and the verb: “They sleep downstairs [inside, outside, downtown, upstairs, uptown].”


We’ll take up the prepositions of motion and direction next, but before doing so, I’d like to point out that English preposition usage is much more complicated than that of our Tagalog-based national language. English has at least 24 prepositions of space and time, but Filipino has only one preposition—“sa”—to do the job of 12 of those English prepositions, as in “Nagkita sila sa tulay sa Sta. Cruz sa bandang kanan ng simbahan.”(“They met at the bridge in Sta. Cruz on the right side of the church.”)

(Next: The preposition as another type of functional connective - 3)  June 22, 2017

This essay, 1044th of a series, appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of The Manila Times, June 15, 2017 issue (print edition only), © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2017, 08:51:40 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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