[ prep-uh-zish-uhn ]
/ ˌprɛp əˈzɪʃ ən /
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noun Grammar.
any member of a class of words found in many languages that are used before nouns, pronouns, or other substantives to form phrases functioning as modifiers of verbs, nouns, or adjectives, and that typically express a spatial, temporal, or other relationship, as in, on, by, to, since.
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Origin of preposition

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English preposicioun, from Latin praepositiōn-, stem of praepositiō “a putting before, a prefix, preposition”; see pre-, position

grammar notes for preposition

The often heard but misleading “rule” that a sentence should not end with a preposition is transferred from Latin, where it is an accurate description of practice. But English grammar is different from Latin grammar, and the rule does not fit English. In speech, the final preposition is normal and idiomatic, especially in questions: What are we waiting for? Where did he come from? You didn't tell me which floor you worked on. In writing, the problem of placing the preposition arises most when a sentence ends with a relative clause in which the relative pronoun ( that; whom; which; whomever; whichever; whomsoever ) is the object of a preposition. In edited writing, especially more formal writing, when a pronoun other than that introduces a final relative clause, the preposition usually precedes its object: He abandoned the project to which he had devoted his whole life. I finally telephoned the representative with whom I had been corresponding. If the pronoun is that, which cannot be preceded by a preposition, or if the pronoun is omitted, then the preposition must occur at the end: The librarian found the books that the child had scribbled in. There is the woman he spoke of.

OTHER WORDS FROM preposition


preposition , proposition

Other definitions for preposition (2 of 2)


or pre-po·si·tion

[ pree-puh-zish-uhn ]
/ ˌpri pəˈzɪʃ ən /

verb (used with object)
to position in advance or beforehand: to preposition troops in anticipated trouble spots.

Origin of preposition

First recorded in 1960–65; pre- + position
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a preposition?

Prepositions are a category of words that are placed before nouns and pronouns to create phrases that modify nouns, verbs, or adjectives.

A preposition is the first part of a prepositional phrase. The preposition is followed by an object, such as a noun or pronoun, as in outside the house.

Prepositional phrases indicate a relationship between words in a sentence. For example, in I exercised after dinner, after is the preposition in the prepositional phrase after dinner. Together, after and dinner tell you more about (modify) the verb exercised. They tell you when I exercised.

Prepositions and prepositional phrases are used to begin phrases that modify nouns, verbs, and adjectives. While they often follow the words they modify, but they have to, Before supper, I washed my hands. Before is modifying washed, describing when I washed my hands.

Why are prepositions important?

The first records of the word preposition come from around 1350. Preposition combines the prefix pre-, meaning “before,” and the word position, meaning “relative location.” A preposition usually (but not always) comes before a noun or pronoun.

Prepositions are often used for describing relationships of space (on, around, below) or time (before, after). They also describe other relationships, such as purpose (the pencil used for drawing; the pencil I draw with) or connection (Paul traveled with Jane; the person Paul traveled with).

Did you know ... ?

Prepositions are among the most commonly used words in English. In fact, 10 of the 100 most common English words are prepositions: of, in, to, for, with, on, by, out, into, and about.

What are real-life examples of prepositions?

The following table gives some examples of the many words and phrases that are used as prepositions.

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Prepositions are central to grammar and English, if we don’t always enjoy learning about them.

What other words are related to preposition?

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following words is a preposition?

A. students
B. study
C. for
D. tests

How to use preposition in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for preposition

/ (ˌprɛpəˈzɪʃən) /

a word or group of words used before a noun or pronoun to relate it grammatically or semantically to some other constituent of a sentenceAbbreviation: prep

Derived forms of preposition

prepositional, adjectiveprepositionally, adverb

Word Origin for preposition

C14: from Latin praepositiō a putting before, from pōnere to place

usage for preposition

The practice of ending a sentence with a preposition (Venice is a place I should like to go to) was formerly regarded as incorrect, but is now acceptable and is the preferred form in many contexts
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for preposition


A part of speech that indicates the relationship, often spatial, of one word to another. For example, “She paused at the gate”; “This tomato is ripe for picking”; and “They talked the matter over head to head.” Some common prepositions are at, by, for, from, in, into, on, to, and with.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.