Common Errors in English – Missing Prepositions

Prepositions are the most frequently occurring type of word in the English language.  So, they are a pretty important word group to understand!  

According to The Chicago Manual of Style 15th ed. rev. (University of Chicago Press, 2003), a preposition is “a word or phrase that links an object (a noun or noun equivalent) to another word in the sentence to show the relationship between them.”  

describe where or when something is or happens (time or spatial descriptions).  There are several other functions of prepositions, but we’ll keep to the basics here.

A missing preposition is a common mistake for both native speakers and ESL students.  When speaking, native English speakers often do not clearly pronounce prepositions since they are such small and common words.  Therefore, in writing, it is common for a native English speaker to leave out some prepositions by mistake.  

Prepositions can be hard for non-native English speakers as well, since their translations are difficult.  One English preposition might have two or more translations in another language, so it can get confusing.  

The Grammar of Prepositions

The best way to learn about prepositions is to look them up in a dictionary, or to practice reading English.  

This link shows some charts with many prepositions, and notes on how/when to use them:

Some Examples of Common Prepositions

Simple Prepositions   

as, at, by, down, for, from, in, like, of, off, on, plus, since, through, to , toward, up, with

Compound Prepositions   

about, above, across, after, against, alongside, around, before, below, beneath, between, despite, except, inside, onto, opposite, throughout, underneath, until, without

TIME Prepositions:  at, on, in

At: Specific times
The party starts at 6:00 pm.

On: Days and dates
Richard’s final exam is on March 4th.
We’re going to the park on Wednesday.

: Nonspecific times during a day/month/season/year
He was born in the middle of the day.
The book was written in 2005.
My parents’ anniversary is in February.
We always pick apples in the fall.


LOCATION Prepositions:  at, on, in

At: Specific Addresses        
The library is located at 145 Main Street.
Her house is at Elm Street and Cricket’s Lane.

On: Names of Streets, Avenues, Roads, etc.    
The best shopping is found on 5th Avenue.

In: Names of Areas (countries, states, towns, counties, etc.)    
We live in France.
Italians live in Italy.
Manhattan is located in New York.

Wikepedia has a good list of English prepositions:

Fixing Missing Preposition Mistakes with WhiteSmoke


Missing Preposition #1:

I want know how to meet new people.

WhiteSmoke’s Suggestion:

Prepositions 1

WhiteSmoke’s Explanation:

The preposition "to" is required before an infinitive.

Missing Preposition #2:

By the time we arrived the party, it was finished.

WhiteSmoke’s Suggestion:
Prepositions 2

WhiteSmoke’s Explanation:
This word requires a preposition.

Missing Preposition #3:

I traveled Russia this summer.

Whitesmoke’s Suggestion:

Prepositions 1

WhiteSmoke’s Explanation:

This word requires a preposition.