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[prep-uh-zish-uh n] /ˌprɛp əˈzɪʃ ən/
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.
1350-1400; Middle English preposicioun < Latin praepositiōn- (stem of praepositiō) a putting before, a prefix, preposition. See pre-, position
Related forms
prepositional, adjective
prepositionally, adverb
nonprepositional, adjective
nonprepositionally, adverb
quasi-prepositional, adjective
quasi-prepositionally, adverb
Can be confused
preposition, proposition.
Usage note
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.


[pree-puh-zish-uh n] /ˌpri pəˈzɪʃ ən/
verb (used with object)
to position in advance or beforehand:
to preposition troops in anticipated trouble spots.
Also, pre-position.
1960-65; pre- + position Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for prepositions
  • Count how many times they forget that prepositions take the objective case.
  • Overblown verbs, explosive nouns, beautifully bungled prepositions.
  • It's always the prepositions which make foreign languages difficult.
  • Sentences periodically end with prepositions and, in one instance, a proposition.
  • Equally hilarious are the consequences of missing prepositions.
  • One of my biggest gripes is the excessive and superfluous use of prepositions by cooks and chefs on food television programs.
  • To avoid prepositions at the end of sentences, for example, ties up us.
  • The writer would have been better served dealing more at length with the propensity to use needless prepositions.
  • Avoid these confusing constructions by using more prepositions.
  • The first elements removed from the text are syntactic connectors, beginning with prepositions and markers of subordination.
British Dictionary definitions for prepositions


a word or group of words used before a noun or pronoun to relate it grammatically or semantically to some other constituent of a sentence prep
Derived Forms
prepositional, adjective
prepositionally, adverb
Usage note
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
Word Origin
C14: from Latin praepositiō a putting before, from pōnere to place
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
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Word Origin and History for prepositions



late 14c., from Latin praepositionem (nominative praepositio) "a putting before, a prefixing," noun of action from past participle stem of praeponere "put before," from prae "before" (see pre-) + ponere "put, set, place" (see position (n.)). In grammatical use, a loan-translation of Greek prothesis, literally "a setting before."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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prepositions in Culture

preposition definition

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 American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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