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Prepositions and complex prepositions

7 Prepositions


Prepositions cannot be distinguished by any formal features. A list of prepositions will illustrate this point:  

across, after, at, before, by, during, from, in, into, of, on, to, under, with, without 

We can, say, however, that prepositions typically come before a noun:  

across town 
after class 
at home 
before Tuesday 
by Shakespeare

for lunch 
in London 
on fire 
to school 
with pleasure


The noun does not necessarily come immediately after the preposition, however, since determiners and adjectives can intervene:  

after the storm  
on white horses  
under the old regime 

Whether or not there are any intervening determiners or adjectives, prepositions are almost always followed by a noun. In fact, this is so typical of prepositions that if they are not followed by a noun, we call them "stranded" prepositions:  




Stranded Preposition

John talked about the new film 

This is the film John talked about



Prepositions are invariable in their form, that is, they do not take any inflections.

7.1 Complex Prepositions

The prepositions which we have looked at so far have all consisted of a single word, such as in, of, at, and to. We refer to these as SIMPLE PREPOSITIONS.  

COMPLEX PREPOSITIONS consist of two- or three-word combinations acting as a single unit. Here are some examples:      

according to 
along with 
apart from 
because of 
contrary to

due to 
except for 
instead of 
prior to 
regardless of


Like simple prepositions, these two-word combinations come before a noun: 

according to Shakespeare 
contrary to my advice 
due to illness 

Three-word combinations often have the following pattern:  

Simple Preposition + Noun + Simple Preposition 

We can see this pattern in the following examples:      

in aid of 
on behalf of  
in front of 
in accordance with 
in line with

in line with 
in relation to 
with reference to 
with respect to 
by means of


Again, these combinations come before a noun:

in aid of charity 
in front of the window 
in line with inflation 

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