31 Prepositions

31 Prepositions


Prepositions supply context related to how something occurred, when it took place or where something – including an action – is located – either physically or as related to time. That is a very complex idea. Fortunately, most of my students have an idea of prepositions from their first language and have little problem extending this concept to English. The problem arrives when they try to find some logic in applying prepositions consistently. Well, you can forget about logic when learning prepositions. There are so many international variants, context variations and similar that it is better to learn them by listening, remembering and intuition. I hate trying to teach prepositions. There is simply never enough time to cover them adequately. They are almost always the most obvious problem
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in a student’s progress toward becoming a near native user of English. All the same, I at least try to have my students control three prepositions of time. These three are ‘in, on, at.’ A basic guide to using them for time is – use ‘in’ when the event is located very vaguely in time. For example, ‘My birthday is in September.’ September is one of twelve months, so that is a little precise, but with thirty days in September, it is rather vague when you want to know my birth-day, as opposed to my birth-month. ‘On’ is more precise. For example, ‘My birthday is on September fifteenth.’ This is quite precise, but a day is divided into twenty-four hours. So, if I want to specify when the party is starting for celebrating my birthday, I might say, ‘My birthday party starts at six.’ More examples of ‘in, on, at’ are in tutorial thirty-six, because they are so frequently confused. The prepositions of place are far too many and too complicated for a short tutorial. The best way to learn them is by listening and reading. While studying try to pay attention for differences of preposition use between ‘British’ English and ‘American’.

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