English Grammar Step by Step
Insert the correct preposition in the spaces provided.
1 Examples: (time)
The meeting will be held in a few days. (= in a few days’ time)
The meeting will be held in May. (in + a month)
The meeting will be held on 15th May. (on + a day + a month)
The meeting will be held on Tuesday. (on + a day of the week)
The meeting will be held at the weekend.
I came to live here in 1981. (in + a year)
I’m sorry, but I can’t come at Christmas. (at + a public
I’m sorry, but I can’t come on Christmas Eve. (a specific day)
What are you doing at the moment/at present. (set phrases)
a Do you think she will come __________ Easter?
b My late wife died __________ 1996.
c He’s having a urine test __________ Thursday.
d He suffered a nervous breakdown __________ November.
e We are having a party __________ two weeks. Would you like to
We always go to the same holiday resort in (the) summer. (in +
She met him on a summer’s night. (more specific than in
They saw the patrol car at half past ten. (at + the time)
I’ll have finished at the end of the month. (at the beginning
or end of a period of time)
We don’t like going out at night. (at + night, midday, etc.)
I get up early in the morning. (in the morning, afternoon,
I’m going to the concert on Friday evening. (a particular
Mark Twain (pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens) was born in
the nineteenth century. (in + a century)
She learnt to swim at (the age of) six.
a We left home __________ sunset.
b I’ve invited some friends to dinner __________ Christmas Day.
c Everything happened __________ a winter’s morning.
d Will you be ready __________ dinner time?
e She went to university __________ 25.
I haven’t seen a koala bear for years (and years)/three
months/a week/ages/a long time.
It has rained a lot for the last week/hour.
I haven’t seen a koala bear since (conjunction) I last went
to Australia/I was a child/we arrived.
It has been pouring down with rain since (preposition) two
I haven’t seen her since Monday/last week/1980/October.
A large number of people lost their lives during/in the
Second World War.
We didn’t meet each other during/at the concert.
I felt sick during the meal.
For expresses how long something last. Therefore, it is followed
by plural nouns or expressions containing a(n). Since indicates
that something started in the past and has just stopped or is
still going on. During tells us when something occurs. At times,
other prepositions are possible in place of during, as in the
sixth and seven instances above. However, the meaning may
change. At the concert means ‘in that place’; but during the
concert, ‘in that period of time’. There is not much difference
between ‘during the Second War World’ and ‘in the Second War
a She didn’t get nervous __________ the interview.
b It had been sleeting __________ over two hours.
c Those hills have been veiled in mist __________ early this
d He worked as a sales manager representative __________ three
years before he retired.
e She didn’t say anything __________ the meeting.
The goods that you requested from us will be delivered within
a week. (in the period of a week, but not later, ie before a
The school will be inaugurated towards the end of this month.
(a little bit ealier than the end of the month)
They will be delivered by Friday. (on Friday at the latest)
By the time (that) you’ve finished your breakfast, they will
have left. (= When you have finished your breakfast, they will
Make sure you arrive on time. (= Make sure that you
You should arrive in (good) time to take your plane. (= You
should arrive early enough to take your plane.)
We arrived just in time to catch the plane. (If we had arrived
a couple of minutes later, we would have missed it.)
a ‘Don’t be late, please.’
‘Don’t worry! I’ll be right __________ time.’
b You’ll have to leave now if you want to arrive __________ time
c Her novel will come out __________ the end of the year. (ie,
before the end of the year.)
d These documents should be signed __________ Tuesday. (But not
later than Tuesday.
e If we haven’t come back __________ two days, continue the
It’s twenty past ten. (ie, 10.20)
It’s twenty to ten. (ie, 9.40)
I’ll be there around/round/(at) about nine o’clock. (at
approximately nine o’clock)
I’ll be very sad after your departure for the States. (= Once
you have left.)
He gave her a kiss before her departure for the States.
(The opposite of after, ie He gave her a kiss, and later
she departed for the States.)
They stayed at Peter’s home past/beyond midnight. (ie,
They waited for her from six until/till (informal)/up to
(less usual) eight. (That is, they waited for two hours.)
We’ll wait for you until/till/up to eleven o’clock. (That is
to say, we will leave at eleven o’clock.)
As from/of next week, plane fares will be more expensive. (=
From next week onwards, plane fares will be more expensive.)
What did you do between last Monday and last Friday? (ie, from
last Monday to last Friday)
What did you do throughout/all through your summer holiday(s)?
(= during your summer holiday/holidays)
a ‘Night is falling. Don’t be late!’
‘Don’t worry. It’ll be here __________ dark. It’ll only take
me about twenty minutes.’
b Unfortunately, his bike had a puncture and got home __________
dark. This made his parents angry.
c She’s got to be home at ten o’clock sharp, and it’s
already __________ ten, so her parents will get angry by the
time she gets home.
d We’ll be here __________ eleven __________ twelve.
e He stayed there __________ midday. Then, he went to have a walk
in the country.
6 Revision exercise.
a He left home __________ the morning of the thirteenth of
December, and hasn’t come back yet.
b ‘What do you do __________ the evenings?’
‘I read or watch TV.’
c ‘Where’s the baby’s bottle?’
‘I don’t know. I haven’t seen it __________ you last fed her.’
d You have a bus to catch, so hurry up if you want to be
__________ good time.
e They have been complaining __________ the beginning of the week.
I wish they would stop complaining.
f I sent them a letter __________ the beginning of the week. I
think they will have got it __________ now.
g He’s been out of a job __________ a long time.
h You’ve been nosing about in my bedroom __________ half an hour!
i __________ my last visit to Singapore, I had a great time.
j ‘I need this report __________ Wednesday evening.’
‘Don’t worry. You’ll have it __________ Wednesday.’ (Maybe a
k They’re very keen on punctuality, so be there __________ time.
l It’s half __________ twelve. (ie, 12.30)
m It’s twenty __________ five. (ie, 4.40)
n I want you there __________ eight. Please don’t be late, or
you’ll regret it.
o I studied hard __________ the winter, and now I wish to have
some piece and quiet.
p What do you like doing __________ weekends?
q __________ going to Canada, he was in France __________ nine
weeks. (First, he spent nine weeks in France. Then, he went
r I’d like to have been born __________ the 1960s.
s Everything happened __________ a wintry morning __________ May.
t I rarely have a shower __________ night. I usually have
it __________ the morning.
u Please pick me up __________ seven o’clock __________ the
v The baby cried several times __________ the night, which is why
I couldn’t get a wink of sleep.
w Could you collect a pair of shoes from the shoemaker
x School ends __________ 20th June.
y Don’t call me __________ eight __________ the morning
__________ two __________ the afternoon, as I’ll be at
z She got pregnant __________ 24.
There are no cigarettes in the packet. (in = inside)
There is a spider on the table. (surface)
There is a young man at the door. (It does not indicate ‘inside’
or ‘surface’, but an exact position in space; that is, he is
next to the door, at that point.)
a They are sitting __________ the table, since they are going to
b There’s somebody __________ the house. The lights are on.
c He saw her crying __________ the window as he went away.
d There’s a notice __________ the front door.
e There was a man running __________ the field.
He is sitting on a chair. (surface)
He is sitting in an armchair. (In here has the idea of ‘inside’,
as it is a chair with arms.)
They are at/on the corner. (of a street, ie in the outside
part where two walls meet.)
They are in the corner. (of a room, ie in the inside part
where two walls meet.)
I think she’s the most intelligent person in the world. (It
carries the idea of ‘inside’.)
I think she’s the most intelligent person on earth. (It conveys
the idea of ‘surface’.)
They are in the river. (inside, ie swimming)
She saw a small boat on the river. (surface, since the boat
floated on it.)
a They’re __________ the corner of Cromwell Road and Earl Court
b They were __________ a corner of the room playing cards.
c He was sitting ___________ his favourite rocking chair.
d Nobody __________ the world knows as much about computers as
e When he entered the room, she was curled up __________ the
corner with a novel.
Eivissa is an island on the Mediterranean Sea. (on + a line)
This village is not on the map. (on + a line)
The Pyrenees are on the border between the Iberian peninsula
and France. (on + a line)
They are on a desert island/in Great Britain. (Great Britain is
a very large island.)
I own a shop on the ground floor. (on + a vertical line)
There was something written on the front/back of the sheet
of newspaper. (surface)
He saw them at the front/back of the church. (a point in space)
Put the goods in the front/back of the lorry. (inside)
We live in Oxford Street. (in + a name of a street)
We live at 20 Oxford Street. (at + the number of the house +
the name of the street)
We live at number twenty. (at + the number of the house)
We live in France/Paris. (in + the name of a country, city,
Have you ever been to London? (= Have you ever visited London→
have been to + a place)
He has been in London for a year now. (= He has been living
in London for a year now.)
a She lives __________ the second floor.
b Don’t forget to put your name and address __________ the
c We were fishing __________ the river when two men with machine
guns appeared. We tried to run out of the water and reach the
other bank of the river, but it was useless, since they caught
d It’s __________ Regent Street.
e It’s __________ 15 Regent Street.
There’s a good film on (the) television (set phrase)/at the
Odeon (ie, a cinema, public perfomance) tonight.
They saw him at the concert. (public perfomance)
She met him for the first time at Heathrow (Airport). (The
three dimensions of the place does not interest us at all.
‘At Heathrow’ simply means ‘at that point’.)
Let’s have a drink at the pub round the corner. (The dimensions
of the pub are not important: Let’s have a drink at that point.)
There was a lot of smoke in the pub yesterday, which made my
eyes sting. (inside the pub; the dimensions of the pub are being
considered: perhaps the pub was too small for so many people
smoking at the same time.)
The train stops at every town. (The dimensions of the place
are unimportant. We take the place as a point on a journey.)
a I saw them __________ the theatre last night.
b He talked to us __________ the party.
c We’ll be waiting for you __________ Gatwick Airport.
d He felt uncomfortable __________ the snack bar, as the
atmosphere was suffocating.
e What’s __________ (the) telly this evening?
She works in a bank. (We do not know what bank she works for.)
She works at the bank around the corner. (a specific bank;
the dimensions of the bank are not being regarded.)
He’s working on/at/upon a novel, project, a cure for this
He works and lives on a farm.
She’s at work/school/university/college. (set phrases)
She was/stayed at home. (The noun ‘home’ takes the preposition
‘at’ with static verbs.)
She arrived/got/reached/went home. (The word ‘home’ does not
take the preposition ‘at’ with verbs of motion.)
He is in bed. (sleeping)
He is on the bed. (sitting)
He is in hospital. (as a patient)
He is at (= at that point)/in (inside the building) the
He is in prison/gaol/jail. (behind bars)
He is at (at that point)/in (inside the building) the prison/
gaol/jail. (as a visitor)
He is in/at church. (praying)
He is in (inside)/at (at that point) the church.
a My sister is working __________ a book for children.
b My sister works __________ MacDonald’s.
c My sister works __________ a restaurant.
d My sister works __________ home.
e My sister is going __________ home.
Open your books on page 125.
You’re not in the photo.
The bank is on the left/right. (= on the left/right-hand
(In a car) To the left/right. (direction)
You turned (to the) left/right. (direction)
Take the second turning to (direction)/on (the one which
is situated on the left/right-hand side: position) the left/
She’s in the sea. (swimming)
They’re at sea. (travelling by sea)
She’s at the sea. (next to the sea)
The castle is on top of the hill. (= on the hill, up on the
The castle is at the top of the hill.
a The typewriter is __________ top of the wardrobe.
b My father is a fisherman and is now __________ sea.
c Let’s go for a swim __________ the sea.
d You must read the passage __________ page 49 for tomorrow.
e The language school is left __________ that.
In American English on is used: on the weekend.
Notice the following:
We are now on holiday.
Where are you going for your Christmas holiday(s)?
Note the following:
He met her on a summer’s/summer night.
He met her on a winter’s/winter night.
He met her on a spring night.
He met her on a autumn night.
Other prepositions are also possible, but with a change of
I never watch television at night. (We are speaking in
a general sense.)
I had to get up twice in/during the night. (ie, last night)
We’ll go by night. (ie, so as not to be seen)
In order to avoid being caught, we’ll have to travel
by night and sleep by day.
We had better travel during the night and sleep during
the day, as there is less traffic at night.
What did you do on the night of the accident? (We
are referring to a concrete night.)
Observe the following:
She bought her a sweater for her birthday. (She bought her
a sweater because it was her birthday.)
She bought her a sweater on her birthday. (She bought her
a sweater on that special day.)
I want it for tomorrow.
Over is sometimes used to mean ‘during’ or ‘while’:
I felt sick over the meal. (ie, during the meal.)
Let’s speak about it over breakfast. (ie, while we
are having breakfast.)
She stayed here over the weekend. (ie, during the weekend.)
We had a cosy chat over a snack. (ie, while we were having
I got to know them over the years. (ie, thoughout/during
She didn’t say anything over/throughout/all through dinner.
(ie, while we were having dinner.)
Inside is an informal alternative to within: The goods that
you requested from us will be delivered inside a week.
Inside of is also possible, especially in American English:
The goods that you requested from us will be delivered
inside of a week.
Toward is also possible, chiefly in American English.
Note the following: Our train arrived bang/dead/exactly/right
The word ‘minutes’ is necessary when the minutes are not
multiple of five: It’s thirteen minutes to ten. The British
and American usage sometimes differ:
Note the following:
There were (a)round/about 10,000 thousand people at
The accident happen (a)round about midnight.
There were (a)round about nine hundred people at
Past is colloquial.
It is also possible to say up until or up till.
See the previous footnote.
As of is used mainly in American English.
In the next sections, we are going to deal with prepositions
of place, position, movement, means, and so forth.
Notice the following: She hit her thigh on/against the corner
of the dining table and got a bruise on it.
Note that we say in the top/bottom right/left-hand corner of
a page: Put your name and personal code in the top left-hand
corner of the exam paper. If we say that we are in a (tight)
corner, we are in a difficult situation that we find it hard
to avoid: I was in a tight corner when someone stole my
luggage and money in a far-off country.
In some cases, upon is a formal alternative to on (position,
place and time):
Eivissa is an island on/upon the Mediterranean Sea.
Put it on/upon the table.
On/Upon reaching our destination, we realised that
everyone had left. (= As soon as reached our destination,...)
Do not confuse on/upon (= as soon as) with in (= while):
In reaching our destination, we met several interesting
people. (= On our way to our destination or while/when
we were reaching our destination.)
Upon cannot be replaced with on in the following instances:
Once upon a time, there were two princesses who wanted
to marry the same prince. (set phrase)
They were very happy as their summer holidays were
upon them. (= very near)
There is news upon the hour. (= every hour)
She awaited his arrival day upon day. (= day after day)
Notice that we say at (last pages)/on (cover) the back of a
book, but in (first pages)/on (cover) the front of a book.
Observe the following:
I sat in the back/front of the car.
I sat in/at the back/front of the bus.
She sat in the middle.
I woke up in the middle of the night.
On is used in American English: We live on Madison Avenue.
We say This flight makes a stopover in London rather than
at London. This may be due to the fact that we usually
spend a night or two there.
See unit 14, section 38.
Observe the following:
They got to France, the concert, etc., an hour ago.
They reached France, the concert, etc., an hour ago.
They went to France, the concert, etc., an hour ago.
They arrived in France, Paris, etc., last week.
They arrived at the airport, restaurant, etc., on time.
They arrived at an agreement, conclusion, etc., last week.
See unit 14, section 38.
See section 8 in this unit.
It’s a quarter past two.
It’s a quarter after two.
It’s ten to seven. (6.50)
It’s ten of/to seven.
Author: Miquel Molina i Diez
Pages: 1, 2, 3 and the key
1 Negative and interrogative sentences (Page 2 and the key)
2 Short answers (Page 2 and the key)
3 Question tags (Page 2 and the key)
4 Questions and exclamations (Page 2 and the key)
5 So, neither, nor, either (the key)
6 Be, used to, would, be/get/become used to, dare, have, get, become, grow, go, turn, fall and feel (Page 2 and the key)
7 Verb tenses: forms (Page 2 and the key)
8 Irregular verbs
9 Verb tenses: uses (Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5 and the key)
10 Personal pronouns, possessives and reflexive pronouns (Page 2 and the key)
11 The genitive case (the key)
12 Singular and plural nouns (Page 2 and the key)
13 Gender (the key)
14 A, an, some, any, no, not, none, each, every and the; compounds of some, any, no and every (Page 2, Page 3 and the key)
15 Neither, not...either, none, not...any, both and all (the key)
16 A few, few, a lot, lots, a little, little, many, much, no and plenty (the key)
17 Enough, too, so and such (the key)
18 Comparative and superlative sentences (Page 2 and the key)
19 Adjective order (the key)
20 Relative clauses (Page 2 and the key)
21 Do and make (the key)
22 Modal verbs (Page 2, Page 3 and the key)
23 Infinitives, gerunds and present participles (Page 2 and the key)
24 Conditional sentences (Page 2 and the key)
25 Passive sentences (the key)
26 Reported speech (Page 2 and the key)
27 Purpose (the key)
28 Word order (the key)
29 Inversion (the key)
30 Connectors (Page 2 and the key)
31 Prepositions (Page 2, Page 3 and the key)
32 Phrasal verbs (the key)