TOEFL IBT – Prepositions

Prepositions are all the “little words”–by, to, with, about, over, etc.


Time prepositions (at, on, in) are used as follows:

  • On is used with days of the week:
    • Let’s meet up on Friday.
    • My flight leaves on Tuesday.
  • At is used with time of day:
    • Let’s meet up at 6 p.m.
    • My flight leaves at noon.
  • In is used with other parts of the day or time words:
    • Let’s meet up in September.
    • My flight leaves in the morning.
    • This movie came out in 2007.
    • I start college in the fall.

To express an extended period of time, use the prepositions since, for, from, to, until, during, and within.

  • He has been gone since last week. (He left last week and has not returned yet.)
  • I’m going to Alaska for the summer. (I am going to spend the duration of the summer in Alaska.)
  • The play was on Broadway from January to October. (The play began in January and ended in October.)
  • The road work lasted from June until August. (The road work began in June and finished in August.)
  • During class, I almost always take notes. (I almost always take notes for some period of time in class.)
  • She needs to finish the book within a week. (She needs to finish the book in a week or less.)

To express an idea about place, use the prepositions in, inside, on, and at.

  • There is a mosquito in the kitchen. (There is a mosquito contained somewhere in the kitchen.)
  • Go look inside the car. (Go look in a specific place, the inside of the car.)
  • The flowers are on the table. (The flowers are on the surface of the table.)
  • He is waiting for me at the store. (He is waiting in a general location, at the store.)

Use the prepositions over and above to express ideas of an object being higher than a certain point.

  • He threw the Frisbee over the roof. (He threw the Frisbee somewhere over the height of the roof.)
  • I need to clean the wall above the stove. (I need to clean the wall that is higher in relation to the stove.)

Use the prepositions under, underneath, beneath, and below to express ideas of an object being lower than a certain point.

  • The power lines are under the ground. (The power lines are somewhere underground.)
  • The door is underneath the sign. (The door is in a specific place, underneath the sign.)
  •  Beneath my window is a blueberry bush. (The blueberry bush is specifically right below my window.)
  • The elevator stopped at the floor below us. (The elevator stopped somewhere lower than where we are.)

Use the prepositions near, by, next to, between, among, and opposite to describe an object as being close to another point.

  • I live near where I work. (I live in close proximity to where I work.)
  • There is a pharmacy by the supermarket. (There is a pharmacy located very close to the supermarket.)
  • The recycling bin is next to the garbage can. (The recycling bin is located beside the garbage can.)
  • The coffee shop is between Hillside Avenue and Union Turnpike. (The coffee shop is located somewhere in the area with Hillside Ave. on one side and Union Tpke. on the other.)
  • My pencil was on the table among my books. (My pencil was somewhere around the books on the table.)
  • I’ll sit opposite you on the subway. (I am sitting facing you, rather than next to you.)

You can also use prepositions to introduce objects of verbs.

  • At is used with the verbs glance, laugh, look, rejoice, smile, and stare.
    • She glanced at herself in the mirror.
    • Why didn’t you laugh at his joke?
    • I have been looking at a computer screen all day.
    • We rejoiced at his college acceptance.
    • That guy is smiling at you.
    • Stop staring at her!
  • Of is used with the verbs approve, consist, dream, smell, and think.
    • I approve of this message.
    • What does lasagna usually consist of?
    • I dream of a peaceful world.
    • She smells of alcohol again.
    • I can think of five great reasons not to do that.
  • For is used with the verbs call, hope, look, wait, watch, and wish.
    • I called for a taxi about 30 minutes ago.
    • She hopes for a promotion next year.
    • He is looking for his cell phone.
    • They’re waiting for us at the restaurant.
    • I’ll watch for the subway while you buy the tickets.
    • You must work hard if you wish for a high score on the test.


  • Prepositions are almost always attached to a noun!

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