Prepositions before particular words and expressions

Prepositions are small words, but they are very important ones. The biggest problem most ESL students face in learning English is the inability to use prepositions correctly. Here is a list of some common preposition + noun combinations which often cause problems. Note that this is not an exhaustive list. For information about other preposition + noun combinations, see a good dictionary.

At the cinema; at the theatre; at a party; at university

What is on at the cinema this week?

He met her at a party.

He was my senior at university.

A book by Jane Austen; a painting by Picasso, a concerto by Mozart; a film by Fassbinder

I have read almost everything by Jane Austen.

It is a film directed by Fassbinder.

By car / bike / bus / train / boat / plane / land / sea / air;

Let’s go by car.

But we say: on the bus; on the train; on the flight; on the ship; on foot etc.

There is no room on the bus.

She is arriving on the 6:30 train.

In the end = finally, after a long time

In the end, I got a good job.

At the end = at the point where something stops.

There is a library at the end of the street.

The film is a bit weak at the end.

In pen; in pencil; in ink etc.

Write in ink.

In a picture, photo etc.

She looks really pretty in this photo.

In the rain, snow etc.

He walked in the rain.

In a suit, shirt, skirt, hat, coat etc.

Who is that man in the white shirt?

On page (but in line)

There is a mistake in line 6 on page 18.

On the radio; on TV; on the phone

There is an interesting program on TV tonight.

It’s John on the phone and he wants to talk to you.

On time = at the planned time; neither late nor early

In time = before the last moment

The meeting must start on time.

He would have died if they hadn’t taken him to the hospital in time.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I'm Manjusha. This is my blog where I give IELTS preparation tips.

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