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To express notions of place, English uses the following prepositions:
IN - to talk about the point itself
INSIDE - to express something contained
ON - to talk about the surface
AT - to talk about a general vicinity
There is a wasp _________ the room.
Put the present ___________ the box.
I left your keys _________ the table.
She was waiting _________ the corner.
A. Higher than a point
To express notions of an object being higher than a point, English uses the following prepositions: over, above .
He threw the ball over the roof.
Hang that picture above the couch.
B. Lower than a point
To express notions of an object being lower than a point, English uses the following prepositions: under, underneath, beneath, below.
The rabbit burrowed under the ground.
The child hid underneath the blanket.
We relaxed in the shade beneath the branches.
The valley is below sea-level.
C. Close to a point
To express notions of an object being close to a point, English uses the following prepositions: near, by, next to, between, among, opposite .
She lives near the school.
There is an ice cream shop by the store.
An oak tree grows next to my house
The house is between Elm Street and Maple Street.
I found my pen lying among the books.
The bathroom is opposite that room.
III. To introduce objects of verbs
English uses the following prepositions to introduce objects of the following verbs.
At: glance, laugh, look, rejoice, smile, stare
Of: approve, consist, smell
Of (or about): dream, think
For: call, hope, look, wait, watch, wish
( exception with mirror: She glanced in the mirror.)
She glanced ________ her reflection.
I'm looking _______ my keys.
I don't approve _______ his speech.
You didn't laugh _______ his joke.
I'm looking ________ the computer monitor.
I dream _______ finishing college in four years.
Stop staring ________ me.
I am thinking ________ this problem.
My contribution to the article consists _________ many pages.
We rejoiced ________ his safe rescue.
That pretty girl smiled _________ you.
Can you think _________ a number between one and ten?
If you wish ________ an "A" in this class, you must work hard.
He hopes _________ a raise in salary next year.
Did someone call _________ a taxi?
You go buy the tickets and I'll watch ________ the train.
We'll wait ________ her here.
He came home smelling _________ alcohol.
IV. Prepositions of Direction: To, On (to), In (to)
TO: signifies orientation toward a goal
ON + TO = onto: signifies movement toward a surface
IN + TO = into: signifies movement toward the interior of a volume
("To" is part of the directional preposition toward, and the two mean about the same thing.)
In other cases, "to" is used as an ordinary preposition.
Verbs of communication: listen, speak (but not tell), relate, appeal (in the sense of 'plead,' not 'be attractive')
Verbs of movement: move, go, transfer, walk/run/swim/ride/drive/ fly, travel
Except for transfer, all the verbs in listed here can take toward as well as to. However, "to" suggests movement toward a specific destination, while "toward" suggests movement in a general direction, without necessarily arriving at a destination:
Drive toward the city limits and turn north. (Drive in the direction of the city limits; turnoff may be before arriving there.)
Take me to the airport, please. (I actually want to arrive at the airport.)
"Onto" can generally be replaced by "on" with verbs of motion.
Athena climbed on(to) the back of the truck.
Some verbs of motion express the idea that the subject causes itself or some physical object to be situated in a certain place (compare the three example directly above).
Of these verbs, some take only "on." Others take both "on" and "onto," with the latter being preferred by some speakers.
He placed the package on the table. (not "onto" the table)
Prepositions differ according to the number of dimensions they refer to. We can group them into three classes using concepts from geometry: point, surface, and area or volume.
Prepositions in this group indicate that the noun that follows them is treated as a point in relation to which another object is positioned.
at .... point
Prepositions in this group indicate that the position of an object is defined with respect to a surface on which it rests.
on .... surface
Prepositions in this group indicate that an object lies within the boundaries of an area or within the confines of a volume.
Notice that although in geometry surface and area go together because both are two-dimensional, in grammar area and volume go together because the same prepositions are used for both.
in ... area/volume
In and on are also used with means of transportation: in is used with a car, on with public or commercial means of transportation:
in the car on the bus on the plane on the train on the ship
Some speakers of English make a further distinction for public modes of transportation, using in when the carrier is stationary and on when it is in motion.
My wife stayed in/on the bus while I got out at the rest stop. The passengers sat in/on the plane awaiting takeoff.