prep·​o·​si·​tion | \ ˌpre-pə-ˈzi-shən How to pronounce preposition (audio) \

Definition of preposition

: a function word that typically combines with a noun phrase to form a phrase which usually expresses a modification or predication

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Other Words from preposition

prepositional \ ˌpre-​pə-​ˈzish-​nəl How to pronounce prepositional (audio) , ˌpre-​pə-​ˈzi-​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
prepositionally adverb

What is a preposition?

Prepositions show direction, location, or time, or introduce an object. They are usually followed by an object—a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun. The most common prepositions are little and very common:

at, by, for, from, in, of, on, to, with

Also common are:

about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, because of, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, close to, down, during, except, inside, instead of, into, like, near, off, on top of, onto, out of, outside, over, past, since, through, toward, under, until, up, upon, within, without

Prepositions typically show how the noun, noun phrase, or pronoun is related to another word in the sentence.

a friend of mine

the dress with the stripes

hit by a ball

no one except me

Prepositions with their objects form prepositional phrases. A preposition may appear at the end of a sentence or clause, but only when its object comes earlier. Contrary to what some may say, there is nothing ungrammatical about such structures.

Was he the man you worked with?

That isn't what a hammer is for.

It's the chair you're sitting on.

She just needs someone to talk to.

Many prepositions (such as past, under, off, along, and on) may also act as adverbs. A few (including before, after, for, and since) may act as conjunctions (words that join together other words or groups of words).

Examples of preposition in a Sentence

The preposition “on” in “The keys are on the table” shows location. The preposition “in” in “The movie starts in one hour” shows time.
Recent Examples on the Web Take that most school-marmish among them, that of never ending a sentence with a preposition. Joseph Epstein, National Review, "The Art of Punctuation," 12 Sep. 2019 What if every college football school trademarked an appropriate conjunction, preposition, adverb, pronoun or interjection of three letters or shorter? Mike Finger,, "In college football, a trademark word for everyone," 15 Aug. 2019 Insistent that sign language needed to be a complete language, his system was complex enough to express prepositions, conjunctions, and other grammatical elements. National Geographic, "How monks helped invent sign language," 28 May 2019 And in that case, Mr. Garner said, some words should still remain lowercase, including: articles (a, an, the); conjunctions (and, or, but) and prepositions with fewer than four letters (of, by, to, for). Sarah Mervosh, New York Times, "Trump Uses Random Uppercase Letters, but Should You? An Issue of Capital Importance," 4 July 2018 The misinterpretation on which the s’mores story hinges is hiding in the humble preposition with. Ben Zimmer, The Atlantic, "How Computers Parse the Ambiguity of Everyday Language," 27 June 2018 Analytical thinking—which correlates with frequent use of nouns, articles, and prepositions—seems to peak early in the day, along with an increased concern with things like power and achievement. Robbie Gonzalez, WIRED, "Twitter Users Are Analytical in the Morning, Angsty at Night," 22 June 2018 The key is to personalize an individual’s education, even in preschool: If someone is a whiz at differential calculus but can’t discern between her pronouns and her prepositions, maybe moving her out of the 11th grade entirely isn’t the best move. Chris Weller, Newsweek, "America Hates Its Gifted Kids," 16 Jan. 2014 Insistent that sign language needed to be a complete language, his system was complex enough to express prepositions, conjunctions, and other grammatical elements. National Geographic, "How monks helped invent sign language," 28 May 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'preposition.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of preposition

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for preposition

Middle English preposicioun, from Anglo-French preposicion, from Latin praeposition-, praepositio, from praeponere to put in front, from prae- pre- + ponere to put — more at position

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Time Traveler for preposition

Time Traveler

The first known use of preposition was in the 14th century

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Statistics for preposition

Last Updated

2 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Preposition.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 15 December 2019.

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More Definitions for preposition


How to pronounce preposition (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of preposition

grammar : a word or group of words that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, location, or time, or to introduce an object


prep·​o·​si·​tion | \ ˌpre-pə-ˈzi-shən How to pronounce preposition (audio) \

Kids Definition of preposition

: a word or group of words that combines with a noun or pronoun to form a phrase that usually acts as an adverb, adjective, or noun “With” in “the house with the red door” is a preposition.

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More from Merriam-Webster on preposition

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with preposition

Spanish Central: Translation of preposition

Nglish: Translation of preposition for Spanish Speakers

Comments on preposition

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delight or enjoyment

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