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List of Confusing Pair of Prepositions

Published on Sunday, May 27, 2018

1. At/In/On

These are very commonly used prepositions.
Use of these prepositions in reference of ‘time’
At is used for a precise time.
In is used for months, years, centuries and long periods.

On is used for days and dates.
Use of these prepositions in reference of ‘Place’
At is used for a point.
In is used for an enclosed space.
On is used for a surface.

2. At/In/To/Into

At shows stationary position or existing state while In shows movement. Eg:
  • She is at home.
  • The train is in motion.

At for a small place, town etc while In for a big place, town, city, country etc. Eg:
  • He lives at Alwar in Rajasthan.
  • A temple is situated at Madurai in Chennai.

At is used for point of time and In is used for period of time. Eg:
  • The train will arrive at six in the morning.
  • He will meet you in the morning.

In/Into: In shows existing state of things while Into shows movement. Eg:
  • He jumped into the river.
  • There are three students in the class.

In can also be used as an adverb. Eg:
  • Come in=enter.
  • Get in=into the train.

To/Into: To and Into is used as following:

  • In the direction of – Turn to the right.
  • Destination – I am going to Jaipur.
  • Until – from Monday to Friday; five minutes to ten.
  • Compared with- They prefer hockey to soccer.
  • With indirect object- Please give it to me.
  • As part of infinitive – I like to drive; he wants to help.
  • In order to- We went to the store to buy soap.
  • To the inside of- We stepped into the room.
  • Change of condition- The boy changed into a man.

3. On/Onto

On can be used for both existing position and movement. Eg:
  • He was sitting on his bag.
  • Snow fell on the hills.

On can also be used as an adverb. Eg: Go on, come one etc.
Onto is used when there is movement involving a change of level. Eg:
  • People climbed onto their roofs.
  • He lifted her onto the table.

4. With/by

With is used for instruments and By is used for agents. Eg:
  • The snake was killed by him with a stick.
  • The letter was written by Suresh with a pencil.

5. Since/For/From

Since is often used with Present Perfect or Past Perfect tense. Since is used for point of time and never for a place, as; since 6 O’clock/last night/last Monday/since Morning/evening/Monday/January/2005 etc. Eg:
  • It has been raining since two O’clock.
  • He had been ill since Monday.
  • Since can also be used as an Adverb. Eg:
  • He left school in 1983. I haven’t seen him since.
  • It is two years since I last saw Tom.

For is used for a period of time: for two hours/two days/two years/a long time/sometime/forever etc. Eg:
  • Boil it for two hours.
  • He lived in this house for six months.

For is also used with a present perfect tense or past perfect tense for an action which extends up to the time of speaking. Eg:
  • He has worked here for a year.
  • It has been raining for two hours.

From is normally used with to or till/until. Eg: Most people work from eight to six.
From can also be used of place. Eg: He is from Mumbai.

6. Ago/Before

Ago is used for past events while Before is used in reference to two events. Eg:
  • He came three days ago.
  • The train had left before he reached the station.

7. Beside/Besides

  • Beside and Besides have altogether different meanings. Don’t confuse beside with besides.
  • Beside = at the side of. Eg: He was sitting beside Mia.
  • Besides=in addition to/ as well as. Eg: He has a car besides a motor cycle.

8. For/During

During is used with known periods of time, i.e., periods known by name, such as Christmas, Easter or periods which have been already defined. Eg:
  • It rained all Sunday but stopped raining during the night.
  • She was ill for a week, and during that week she ate nothing.

For may be used to denote purpose and may also be used before known periods. Eg:
  • I went there for the summer.
  • I rented my house for my holidays.

For has various other uses. Eg:
  • He asked for ten. I paid six for it.
  • I bought one for him.
  • He has been ill for three days.

9. Below/Under/Beneath

Below and Under both mean lower than (in level) and sometimes either can be used. But under usually denotes physical contact and below denotes space between the things. Eg:
  • He put the books under the pillow.
  • He placed the lamp below the almirah.
  • I was wearing a sweater also under the jacket.

Below and under may also mean junior in rank. Eg:
  • He is under me. Means that I am superior to him.
  • He is working under me.

Below is used meaning opposite to above. Eg:
  • The temperature can fall below 15 degree Celsius.
  • Rainfall has been below average this year.

Beneath: Something that is beneath another thing is under the other thing. Eg:
  • I could see the muscles of his shoulders beneath his T-shirt.
  • I found pleasure in sitting beneath the trees.

Beneath could also mean ‘unworthy as per status’ or ‘in lower strata in social class’. Eg
  • It is beneath his dignity to beg for money. (unworthy of him)
  • She married beneath her. (into a lower social class)

10. In/Within

In means the maximum time limit, while within means the period up to which the work will be completed. Within a particular length of time before that length of time, while ‘in’ refers the maximum time requires for the completion of the job. Eg:
  • I will complete the work in a month.
  • I can repair the car within two hours.

11. Between/Among

Between is normally used for two things or persons, but it can also be used of more when we have a definite number in mind and there is a close relationship/association within them. Eg:
  • He distributed his property between his two sons.
  • I sat between my mom and dad.

Among is usually used for more than two persons or things when we have no definite number in mind. Eg:
  • He was happy to be among friends again.
  • I sat among rank holders.

12. Among/Amongst

Both have same meaning. Either of them can be used if followed by ‘the’. If followed by a word, beginning with a vowel ‘amongst’ be used. The use of amongst is usually found in literary writings. Eg:
  • He distributed the toffies among/amongst the poor.
  • He distributed the toffies amongst us.

13. Of/Off

Of and Off are used in following situations referring:

  • Location east of here; the middle of the road
  • Possession a friend of mine; the sound of music
  • Part of a group ; one of us; a member of the team
  • Measurement of a cup of milk; two meters of snow

  • Not on; away from :Please keep off the grass
  • At some distance from : There are islands off the coast

14. Above/Over

Above and over both mean ‘higher than’ and sometimes either can be used. Eg:
  • The helicopter hovered above/over us.
  • White flags were waved above/over the buildings.

But over also mean covering/on the other side of/across. Eg:
  • I put a cloth over her.
  • He lives over this mountain.
  • There is a bridge over the railway line.

Over can mean higher in rank. Eg: He is over me. (Means He is my immediate boss)
Over is also used with meals/food/ drink. Eg:
  • We had a chat over a cup of tea. (While drinking tea)
  • The matter was decided over the lunch.

Above is also used meaning earlier or previous. Eg: He lives at the above address. (Previously mentioned)
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