Prepositions have many rules and different uses. This paper just talks about some
problems that Korean students commonly have with prepositions. These prepositions all
have other uses too; these are just the ones that students have the most trouble with.
o For time:
? Days of the week, including a specific time of the day of the week
? I will see you on Tuesday.
? On Wednesday, I met my friend, Bob.
? I will see you on Friday afternoon.
? Specific days, such as dates or holidays
? My family has a big dinner on Christmas
? I’ll see you on January 22.
? On time (meaning not late)
? I got to class on time.
? I met my friend on time. o For space:
? “On” basically means “on top of” or “on the front of.”
? Put your book on your desk.
? The clock is on the wall.
o For time:
? I will see you in January.
? In September, I met my girlfriend.
? Years, including groups of years, such as decades or centuries
? I was born in 1985
? In 1953, the Korean War ended.
? The internet was widely used in the 1990s.
? In the 20th century, cars became very popular.
? From now to a future time
? I will see you in 5 minutes.
? In 2 years, I will graduate from college.
? Times of year
? In the summer, I took a trip to Thailand.
? I hate the weather in the winter.
? Times of day
? I have class in the morning.
? In the afternoon, I can often watch movies.
? In time (meaning not too late. Not the same as “on time”)
? I got to class in time for the test.
? I hope I can get to Starbucks in time. My friend will leave
o For space:
? “In” basically means “inside of.”
? At ? We meet in the classroom at 9 am. o For time: ? Please don’t put your books in your bag until I’m finished. ? A specific time
? I will see you at 6:30.
? At noon, I’ll eat lunch
? I always wake up at 5 am.
? I sometimes play games at night.
? My neighborhood is very quiet at night.
o For space:
? “At” basically means “near this location.”
? Bob is at work now.
? I was waiting at the bus stop for 15 minutes.
? Common mistakes with in/on/at
o Not used with “last” or “next”
? (Wrong) On last night, I was very busy.
? (Right) Last night I was very busy.
? (Wrong) I will go to Europe in next summer.
? (Right) I will go to Europe next summer.
o Not used with vacations, use “over” or “during” for specific vacations, but
simply “on” for vacation alone.
? (Wrong) In summer vacation, I had a part time job.
? (Right) During summer vacation, I had a part time job.
? (Right) Over summer vacation, I had a part time job.
? (Wrong) I had a good time in vacation.
? (Right) I had a good time on vacation.
The most common problem with these is that many students don’t remember that these
are used relative to a time other than now, for example, a time in the past or future. For
times relative to now, you must use “in” for a future time and “ago” for a past time.
? Correct uses of “in” and “ago” o I will see you in 5 minutes.
o Let’s go to Europe in 2 years.
o I saw him 5 minutes ago.
o I met my girlfriend two years ago.
o These can be used to describe a time relative to another time (past or
? I was very busy last Saturday. After 5 hours of studying, I had to
go to my part-time job.
? I started high school in 2001. After 3 years, I graduated.
? I met Sally last January. Two months later, we were a couple.
? I ate some fish last night, but 30 minutes later I felt sick.
? I will go to the movies tonight at 8 pm. You can meet me 2 hours
? I hope to graduate in 2010 and start my own company after 5 years.
o Of course, later can also be used alone to mean “later than now.”
? See you later!
? I’ll meet you later.
o Before is similar to after and later. It’s used relative to another time.
? I had never gone to Japan before I went there last year.
? My uncle got married last year. He had met his wife 5 years
? I hope to start my own company in the year 2015. I’ll graduate
from college 5 years before that.
? Common Mistakes with after/later/before
o Notice the placement
? “after” goes before what it’s describing
? “later” goes after what it’s describing
? “before” goes before a clause but after a time.
o Remember, they aren’t used with a time relative to now
o “By” is used for a one time action. The action must happen before the
time you state.
? I must wake up by 6 am.
? “Wake up” happens only once. It is not continuous or
? “6 am” is the last possible time that waking up is okay. 5
am is also okay, but 7 am is not.
? I hope to graduate by 2008.
? “Graduate” happens only one.
? “2008” is the last time that graduating is okay for you.
o “Until” is used for a continued or repeated action. The action stops at the
time you state.
? I must study until 8 pm.
? “Studying” is continuous. It starts now and continues until
the time you give.
? “8 pm” is the time that the continued action of studying
? Mary will be in Thailand until Wednesday. ? Common Mistakes ? Mary will continuously “be” in Thailand. o Make sure you don’t mix the two up. ? “Wednesday” is the day that the trip ends, and she returns. o When using these words with “now” they have a very different meaning
from each other, but also different from Korean.
? “Until now” means that an action continued and now it stops
? I liked you until now (after now, I don’t like you).
? Until now, I have been so busy (after now, I’m not busy).
? “By now” means an action should have happened before now, but
it did not happen.
? My friend should have come by now.
? If she was going to marry him, she would have done it by
? Neither one means that the action will continue in the future.
? (Wrong) I have liked ice cream until now.
? (Right) I still like ice cream.
? (Wrong) I did it until now.
? (Right) I already did it.
o For is used for a duration of time, something that has a beginning and an
end and that you can count the increments (such as minutes, hours, days,
? I will be in Thailand for three days.
? Gary lived in India for 5 years.
o Since is used for a starting point of time in the past.
? I have been in Thailand since last Monday.
? Gary has lived in India since 2002.
o From is used for a starting point of time in the future.
? I will be in Thailand from next Monday.
? I will work for the company from 2008.
o From can ask be used with “to” for a duration of time (past or future).
? I will be in Thailand from next Monday to next Saturday.
? Bob worked for the company from 2002 to 2004.
Complete the following with the correct preposition. Please note that not every
preposition is one that we discussed today.
1. I woke up . . 7 am. I was running late! I got up, and I noted my brother was
still . . bed. I woke him up too. We had breakfast and left home . . 7:30. We
had to be . . school . . 8 or we would be late. We had gone . . this school . .
2004. We had many friends there. However, we would be going . . a new
school . . two months become we would be moving. We made it . . school . .
time. The teacher started just as we walked in.
2. I went . . the store this morning . . 7:30 am. I hadn’t been . . the store . .
September, but the store owner still remembered me. I had to be . . school . .
8 am, so I had to hurry. I got to school . . time. . . 10 minutes, there was a
knock . . my door. It was the new professor who I met . . last week. He had
moved . . Korea just two weeks . . He told me he had been working all night
and that he would have to continue to work . . 9 am, so he asked me to make
some copies for him. He also asked me to make some copies for him . . Monday,
but I didn’t have enough time.
3. Later on, the new professor asked me to go to lunch . . him. He said we should
meet . . noon. While we were eating, he told me he that he first came to
Asia . . 2005, but he lived . . Japan . . 3 years before coming . . Korea.
Two years . . coming . . Korea, he met his wife. We both had to be back . .
the building . . 1 pm, so we had to leave the restaurant . . 12:50. We decided
to meet every Monday for lunch . . next week.