Prepositions: Small, But They Can Mean the World!

Prepositions are small but mighty!

Today a student told me that over the weekend, a friend had thrown up popcorn on her.  My response was “Eeew!  Gross!”

She looked confused.  What she meant was that her friend had tossed popcorn at her in a playful way.

Look at the difference:

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My friend threw up popcorn on me.


My friend threw popcorn on me.

Throw up is a phrasal verb that means vomit.  Throw (…) means toss.  Prepositions can completely change the meaning of a verb.

What are the main jobs of prepositions?

They have many, but common functions are:

I. time and location.

I watch movies in my apartment at night.

I study at school during the week.

II.  method

You can get better at skiing by practicing.

III.  cause & effect

He quit his job because of the low salary.

He moved closer to the ocean due to his love of surfing.

They also work together with a verb to create a verb phrase with a new meaning. These are called phrasal verbs.

go + out + with = go out with = date

He has been going out with someone from his language school.

look + up + to = look up to = respect

I look up to my parents.

There are many sites that can help you learn phrasal verbs on line.


Here are some links to get you started:

The takeaway lesson is that something as small as a preposition can completely change the meaning in a sentence.  If you’re not sure about a sentence of yours, look it up or ask.