Be honest – before becoming a teacher, would you have been able to explain exactly what a preposition is? Go on, we won’t tell
After all, there have been some interesting instances of people in very senior positions struggling to distinguish prepositions and conjunctions. (Actually, the same word could have performed both functions, depending on the context.)
Perhaps the lesson here is that most of us need a reminder now and again, especially if we are going to exude confidence when teaching. So, if you have any hang-ups about prepositions, perhaps the following will help you to get over them.
So, what is a preposition? In essence, it is a word that establishes the relationship between the nouns, pronouns and verbs in a sentence. Often, it shows the location or position of things, such as above, below, off, on, around and about, which might help you to remember the position part of the word preposition. However, it can also indicate time relationships through examples like before or since.
Generally speaking, they are rather small words but they do play a big part in effective writing. What’s more, they are specified in the National Curriculum, alongside adverbs and conjunctions, as being important for expressing time and cause, so it is probably important that you pay them some attention.
English prepositions list
A list of prepositions could be over a hundred words long so it is probably not worth repeating one here. However, you can find a useful collection of them suitable for Key Stage 2 students on our Preposition Poster and Cards for KS2, which illustrate these ideas with appealing images and accompanying texts, or prompt pupils to consider what prepositions they might be hinting at.
Prepositions over conjunctions
Once you have provided your pupils with a suitable preposition list, you should alert them to the fact that it is not necessarily the word that makes it a conjunction but rather the context. As hinted earlier, you can quite rightly identify some words as prepositions but in certain sentences they could perform other functions. For example, the word before is used as a preposition in this sentence: Malayka got home before her brother. That is because the before is showing the positional relationship of Malayka to her brother.
However, in this sentence: Wipe your feet before you come in, it is used as a conjunction because it links the two clauses (wipe your feet and you come in). Take the time to discuss examples like this with your class to make sure they can understand the difference.
About Prepositional phrases
What is a prepositional phrase? In short, it’s a phrase containing a preposition and the object it is referring to. However, it’s not quite as simple as that. A prepositional phrase can act as an adjectival phrase or an adverbial phrase as well as a time connective. It is probably worth emphasising this point to your class, so here are a couple of pointers for you, just in case your understanding is a little hazy.
Prepositional phrases as adverbs
As you know, adverbs modify verbs. The same goes for prepositional phrases acting as adverbs. For example, in the sentence He wore a satchel over his shoulder, the phrase over his shoulder is being used adverbially as it tells us how he wore the satchel. Here are a few other examples: Mia ran across the playground; Raymond leaned his bike against the shed.
Prepositional phrases as adjectives
Similarly, we know that adjectives modify nouns. So, the prepositional phrase inside the satchel is being used in an adjectival way to modify the noun books in this sentence: The books inside the satchel were brand new. Here are some other examples of prepositional phrases acting as adjectives. Mr Abrahams remembered the key in his pocket; Ms Gray swept the path outside her front door.
Prepositional phrase – KS2 English grammar
Prepositional phrases can also act as time connectives. Before long, you’ll be noticing them all over the place. After a while, you might even get bored of them!
As you might have noticed, a prepositional phrase can act as a great sentence starter. Why not encourage your pupils to add them to their own personal sentence starter toolkits. To help them practice, try our KS2 sentence starter games which encourage pupils to explore all sorts of different ways of starting sentences, including adverbs, onomatopoeia and alliteration as well as prepositions.
Multi-talented though prepositions are, they do take a little bit of getting used to. A great way to get your pupils on the right tracks is our Year 3 SPaG Challenge Mat resource pack. This visually appealing set of worksheets includes opportunities for young learners to understand, challenge, test, explain and apply their knowledge of prepositions.
Now that you know what prepositions are all about, we hope that you are in the mood to take your lessons to the next level. Just make sure that you emphasise that it is the role the word is playing rather than the word itself that matters. Then, we are sure that you will soon be teaching with confidence and your pupils will be right on top of this topic.
What is a preposition?
A preposition links a following noun, pronoun or noun phrase to some other word in the sentence. Prepositions often describe locations or directions, but can describe other things, such as relations of time. Words like ‘before’ or ‘since’ can act either as prepositions or as conjunctions.
on, off, to, away, near, above, below, over, past, through, under, up, down, along