Typical Mistakes in English Prepositions



On Wikipedia you can find the list of English prepositions that includes 91 of them, and this is the number of only the single-word ones. No wonder students cannot avoid mixing them up in their writing, considering that each preposition has different meanings in different contexts. So, how can you manage it? They can teach you this stuff in modern grammar schools, but let’s be honest: the chance of you ending up there is negligible. That is why Smart Essay Rewriter has prepared for you a useful guide on choosing the right prepositions. This post is based on the most common students’ mistakes that we eliminated in your works.

At / in / to in referring to places

At indicates an approximate place, and it can act as a synonym to near. It also refers to a certain point: at the corner, at the entrance, at the crossroads. In is used for an enclosed space: in the building, in the car, in the box. To, in turn, is responsible for showing directions. Look at these examples:

  • Mike stopped at the end of the road, unsure where to go next.
  • I knew that I had some cash in my pocket, but I chose not to give it to the girl.
  • You know it well that you have to go to school every day, so why do you keep skipping your classes?!

Slightly different rules apply to the verb to arrive, which appears a lot of disputes. Many people believe it is a norm to place to after this verb, but actually it is a mistake. Basically, you should remember that to is used with verbs of movement (to go, to come, to move), therefore you cannot use it with to arrive. But how to choose between at and in then? At refers to a small area, and you should pick it when talking about an airport, a school or a village. In, on the contrary, is suitable for large territories – countries or cities:

  • When will you arrive in Switzerland? I want to see you as soon as I can.
  • Nick arrived at the railroad station just in time to catch his night train.

For / since referring to time

People often get confused with these two prepositions, so we decided to make it clear for you once and for all. When you use for, you imply that something was happening for a specific period of time. Usually The Present Perfect or The Past Perfect Tenses are required for such sentences:

  • I’ve worked for 10 hours without a break, and I feel completely exhausted.
  • I had been waiting for your letters for 2 years, but nothing came.

The Past Simple or The Past Continuous can be used, too, if the context allows:

  • How long did it take you to finish the project? – I worked on this project for 2 months.
  • I was dancing with him for an hour, enjoying each moment.

Since gives us only the starting point of an action. When we use since, we specify neither duration nor the ending time. However, the latter can often be retrieved from the context: when The Present Perfect Tense is used, you can tell that the action has been happening until the present moment:

  • I’ve tried to call you since 9 am, but received no answer.

About / around referring to approximate values

Both around and about can be used to indicate approximate time or quantity. Moreover, you can pick the adverb approximately to tell the same, and it will be the best choice for academic writing. But when we are talking about these two prepositions specifically, it is important to mention that around is more informal than about. That is all the difference between them, so you should not to worry when using these words in everyday speech: you can say the one you like most.

  • I’ll be at your place at around 6 o’clock in the evening.
  • I took about a dozen of cookies from your fridge.
  • It will take approximately 2 hours for the chemical reaction to happen.

Set phrases

In most English set phrases that include prepositions all the logic explained above virtually goes to pot. The only way to master them is to remember the choice of prepositions for different expressions. You can achieve it by reading a lot: in this case phrases leave their imprint on your mind, and you will never get them wrong. We will help you out a bit, too, by giving the list of the most common phrases. To begin with, memorize them and then try to use them in your writing. We also suggest that you send in your documents to our rewriting service and get your already edited paper back. It is an effective way to check what prepositions you use right and which ones still present difficulties for you. And now let’s get to the set phrases.

  • To study for: While all my friends were hanging out at the party, I had to study for my summer French exams. / I still study for my master’s degree in philosophy.
  • Concern for: Concern for peace is our primary issue these days.
  • To be afraid of: He was afraid of breaking the vow, so he did as he had initially planned.

Having learnt set expressions with prepositions, move on the ones without them. You should avoid placing a preposition in these phrases:

  • To go home: It’s late, and Willy has to go home.
  • To go to bed: Although I usually go to bed at 11 pm, yesterday I couldn’t drop off at that time.
  • To go inside/outside: Why are we still standing here? It’s so cold, let’s go inside.

We hope that this article helped you out a bit with English prepositions. However, if you still have the feeling that you use them wrong, read more about our editing services on this page. What we offer is a complex approach to each one of your essays, which ensures that they go back to you free of any grammar mistakes, including the ones with prepositions. No matter how difficult you find English grammar, Smart Essay Rewriter will do anything to help you: from publishing educational posts on our blog to actually doing the editing job instead of you. With our company to rely on, you will always be among the best students.