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Prepositions | Writing Style Rules

How to Use Prepositions

Prepositions Writing Style Rules

Jenna remarked, “I read in my history textbook that someone named Sir Winston Churchill got upset when an editor revised one of his sentences to avoid ending it in a preposition.”

“Yes,” responded Jenna’s English teacher. “Churchill said, ‘This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.’”

“That’s awkward. If Churchill ended sentences with prepositions, why can’t I?”

“When you write as many books as Churchill, you may write what you want, but not until.”

Definition and Examples

preposition is a word that shows some relationship or position between the preposition and its object (a noun or a pronoun). The preposition is always part of a phrase and comes before its object. The preposition asks “What?” or “Whom?” and the object provides the answer.

Examples: He found it under the house. He found it under what? the house

Secrets were shared between friends (them). Secrets were shared between whom? friends (them)

Read the rules.

  • In formal writing, such as essays, prepositions and prepositional phrases never stand on their own. They always modify other words in the sentence, so Keep prepositional phrases close to the words they modify. Prepositional phrases act as adjectives to answer How Many? Which One? or What Kind? of a noun or pronoun or as adverbs to answer How? When? Where? or What Degree? of a verb, adjective, or another adverb.
  • Avoid stringing together more than two prepositional phrases.
  • Don’t use prepositional phrases instead of possessive adjectives.

Practice

Write the following sentences and [bracket] misused prepositions and prepositional phrases.

  1. “Who will you go to?” she asked.
  2. Down the road, through the gate, and past the fence rode the bicyclist.
  3. I don’t know where you’re at.
  4. Would you please hand me the coat of Sue.
  5. The lady found my dog in a blue dress.

Revise the intentional fragment.

Prepositions are not good to end sentences with.

Answers

  1. “Who will you go [to]?” she asked.
  2. Down the road, through the gate, and [past the fence] rode the bicyclist. This sentence has one too many prepositional phrase strings.
  3. I don’t know where you’re [at].
  4. Would you please hand me the coat [of Sue]. Don’t use prepositional phrases instead of possessive adjectives, such as “Sue’s coat.”
  5. The lady found my dog in a [blue dress]. Keep prepositional phrases close to the words they modify.

Check out this more detailed article, “How to Teach Prepositional Phrases,” to find out when to use to, in, and of.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. 

Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.

Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),

Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule. 

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

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