Sunday, 08/05/2023

A Simple Rule for Prepositions

There is one very simple rule about prepositions. And, unlike most rules, this rule has no exceptions.

Rule: A preposition is followed by a "noun". It is never followed by a verb.

By "noun" we include:

  • noun (dog, money, love)
  • proper noun (name) (Bangkok, Mary)
  • pronoun (you, him, us)
  • noun group (my first job)
  • gerund (swimming)

A preposition cannot be followed by a verb. If we want to follow a preposition by a verb, we must use the "-ing" form which is really a gerund or verb in noun form.

Quick Quiz: In the following sentences, why is the preposition "to" followed by a verb? That should be impossible, according to the rule that you have just read.

  • I would like to go now.
  • She used to smoke.

The answer is that in "I would like to go now" and "She used to smoke", the word "to" is not a preposition. It is part of the infinitive ("to go", "to smoke").

Here are some examples:

subject + verb preposition "noun" note
The food is on the table. noun
She lives in Japan. proper noun
Tara is looking for you. pronoun
The letter is under your blue book. noun group
Pascal is used to English people.
She isn't used to working. gerund
I ate before coming.


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