What Is a Preposition-for Kids

Just what is a preposition and what's the right way to use one? A preposition is a part of speech, just like nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs. Prepositions may seem a little tricky to figure out at first, but it's fairly easy to show kids how to identify them and use them properly.

When and Where
Start with a simple definition: A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun or a pronoun and another word in the sentence. For example, in the sentence, "My dog is on the bed," the word "on" is the preposition; it shows the relationship between the dog and the bed. One way to think of prepositions is to remember that they indicate location. If we change the preposition, we change where the dog is, in relation to the bed. Consider these examples:

The dog is under the bed.

The dog is in the bed.

A preposition can also be used to show when something happens. In the sentence, "She always drinks coffee," "always" is the preposition. It tells us when she drinks coffee. Just like in the samples above, changing the preposition will change the sentence.

She seldom drinks coffee.

She never drinks coffee.

Prepositions to Know
Some of the more commonly used prepositions are:

  • Over
  • Under
  • On
  • In
  • Through
  • With
  • Beside
  • Often
  • Past
  • Around
  • Beneath
  • Behind
  • Until
  • Upon
  • Within

Sometimes prepositions can be a group of words used together. This is called a compound preposition. Here are some examples:

  • On top of
  • Next to
  • In lieu of
  • Instead of
  • In front of

You'll notice that some of the words listed as prepositions can be used as other parts of speech, as well, such as "out." This means that if you see the word "out" in a sentence, you can't always assume it's a preposition. In these cases, you must consider the word's function in the sentence. For example, in the sentence, "Alice and Joe are going out," out is an adverb.   In the sentence, "We ran out the door," out is a preposition.

Breaking the Rules?
You may have heard the rule that you should never end a sentence with a preposition. The funny thing about that rule is that it's actually not a rule of English grammar at all. You can, and sometimes should, end sentences with prepositions, particularly when avoiding it will make the sentence awkward. Consider these two sentences:

That is the park we are going to.

That is the park to which we are going.

Clearly, the first sentence, which ends in a preposition, sounds more natural. The second one is wordy and awkward. Imagine what you'd think if you actually heard someone speaking that way. Most grammar buffs agree that this supposed "rule" should be disregarded in favor of more concise, natural sentence structure.

What you should avoid are needless prepositions at the end of sentences. For example, in the sentence, "Where's my coat at?" you can get rid of the "at" without changing the meaning of the sentence.

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