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A preposition connects nouns and pronouns and serves to provide necessary details that tell the reader when, where, or how something occurred. For example, the most common prepositions are: of, in, to, for, with, on. If you make an error when using a preposition, it is very noticeable and can sound like broken English. It’s important to avoid common errors by researching the proper way to use prepositions. Here are 15 examples of the most common mistakes when using English prepositions.
It is considered poor grammar to end a sentence with a preposition. While this point has been argued at length since it may sound better to end a sentence with a preposition in some cases, it is still considered grammatically incorrect. For example:
Incorrect: Where is my phone at?
Correct: Where is my phone?
While prepositions help form a sentence, sometimes people go overboard and include too many. This can make the sentence seem redundant and too wordy.
Incorrect: The expression of the teacher was impatient.
Correct: The teacher’s expression was impatient.
You can never use the preposition “of” rather than “have.” This is one of the most common mistakes people make without even realizing.
Incorrect: I should of gone to the movie.
Correct: I should have gone to the movie.
Using the phrase “like” liberally will make your writing sound sloppy. Instead you should use pronouns such as “as if” or “as though.”
Incorrect: She looked like she was tired.
Correct: She looked as though she was tired.
When referring to motion, it is grammatically correct to say “into” rather than “in.”
Incorrect: I jumped in to the river.
Correct: I jumped into the river.
Incorrect: He threw the ball in the basket.
Correct: He threw the ball into the basket.
If you are comparing nouns by using the word different, you must follow it with the word from. People sometimes say “different than” instead of “different from.” Although it is not technically a grammatical error; it is better grammatical form to use from.
Incorrect: Your family is different than mine.
Correct: Your family is different from mine.
Infinitives are the basic forms of verbs. Whenever you use an infinitive in a sentence, it must be accompanied by a helping verb.
Incorrect: He wants see the Alps in Switzerland.
Correct: He wants to see the Alps in Switzerland.
When discussing time, the two prepositions you use are “for” and “since.” When using the word “for” you are measuring time and when using the word “since” you are referring to a specific time.
Incorrect: She had been driving since four hours.
Correct: She had been driving for four hours.
Incorrect: I haven’t seen him for last year.
Correct: I haven’t seen him since last year.
Quantifying an action calls for the use of the words “about”, “around”, “Up to” has a different meaning—it means “as much as,” not “approximately.”
Incorrect (if you mean “approximately”): I used up to 3 cups of flour to make the cookies.
Correct: I used about/around 3 cups of flour to make the cookies.
Misusing the word “at” and “to” is another prepositional error that happens frequently. “At” refers to where things are, and “to” describes another location. Mixing these up can result in a very confusing sentence.
Incorrect: They arrived to the school.
Correct: They arrived at the school.
Incorrect: We went at the mall.
Correct: We went to the mall.
Prepositions most often follow a noun or pronoun to create a cohesive sentence. However, there are exceptions that also require a preposition in order to make sense. For example, “afraid of”, “love of”, “concern for”, “study for” and “worry about.” If you do not follow these with a preposition your sentence will not make sense.
Incorrect: I am afraid sharks.
Correct: I am afraid of sharks.
Incorrect: I made sure to study my exam.
Correct: I made sure to study for my exam.
When it comes to timing, “in” and “for” can be used for general measurements, while “on” or “at” are required for specific dates.
Incorrect: He showed up for midnight.
Correct: He showed up at midnight.
Incorrect: Sarah made sure to be home at dinner.
Correct: Sarah made sure to be home for dinner.
If you are discussing a specific place or address you have to use the word “at.” No other preposition can be used in its place.
Incorrect: The school is located in the main intersection.
Correct: The school is located at the main intersection.
When referring to specific regions, the only preposition you can use is the word “in”. This goes for continents, countries, towns, and any other geographic region.
Incorrect: The most delicious baguettes can be found at France.
Correct: The most delicious baguettes can be found in France.
One of the less common errors people make when using a preposition is following it with a verb. If you follow a preposition with a verb it must have “-ing” at the end.
Incorrect: I slept before run.
Correct: I slept before running.
Prepositions are what holds a sentence together and make a complete thought. If you forget or misuse a preposition your writing will sound like broken English, making it hard to understand and losing credibility. Make sure you check your work for these common errors to ensure proper sentence structure and content.