Definition of preposition in English:



  • A word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause, as in ‘the man on the platform’, ‘she arrived after dinner’, ‘what did you do it for?’.

    • ‘When challenged to come up with words of another language, most people will respond with nouns and verbs rather than auxiliaries, prepositions, and the like.’
    • ‘A good comedy movie is also one that is dripping with humour in small doses, so that even a preposition or a pronoun at a given moment seems hilarious.’
    • ‘It's quite different from English, too, in that it puts the verb at the end of the sentence and uses postpositions instead of prepositions.’
    • ‘Moreover, many words have uses without meanings - personal names, prepositions, conjunctions, and the like are cases in point.’
    • ‘There is plenty of evidence that even educated Americans often believe that there is something wrong with sentences ending in prepositions.’


There is a traditional view, first set forth by the 17th-century poet and dramatist John Dryden, that it is incorrect to put a preposition at the end of a sentence, as in where do you come from? or she's not a writer I've ever come across. The rule was formulated on the basis that, since in Latin a preposition cannot come after the word it governs or is linked with, the same should be true of English. The problem is that English is not like Latin in this respect, and in many cases (particularly in questions and with phrasal verbs) the attempt to move the preposition produces awkward, unnatural-sounding results. Winston Churchill famously objected to the rule, saying, ‘This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.’ In standard English the placing of a preposition at the end of a sentence is widely accepted, provided the use sounds natural and the meaning is clear


Late Middle English: from Latin praepositio(n-), from the verb praeponere, from prae before + ponere to place.