Activity 1:

Exercise 1.

The following sentences are correct numbers: 3, 6, 7, 9 and 10. So, you should have ticked those boxes.

The other sentences are incorrect, they should be:

1.) Minority groups are discriminated against in our society.
2.) Immigrants are required to register with the appropriate authorities.
4.) It is sometimes important for students to focus on one task in groups.
5.) Most students in London have financial worries. (no preposition needed)
8.) We discussed the topic before planning our essays. (no preposition needed)

Exercise 2.

The following words take “by“: preceded, triggered, motivated and collated.

The following words take “of“: implication, status and sustainability.

The following words take “to“: fundamental, intrinsic and identical.

Exercise 3.

The following words take “with“: associated, interact and coincide.

The following words take “for“: appropriate, compensation and justification.

The following words take “on“: focus, impact, emphasis and perspective.

Exercise 4.

The following words take “about“: theory, thesis, information and data.

The following words take “against“: discrimination, and offset.

The following words take “between“: comparison, contrast, distinction and connection.

Return to learning object

Activity 2: Prepositional Phrases

Exercise 1.

The following sentences are correct numbers: 1, 2, 5, 7 and 10. So, you should have ticked those boxes.

The other sentences are incorrect; they should be:

3.) The reign of the king was, in comparison with his predecessor, a happy one.
4.) The mean temperatures in low-lying areas, in contrast to the mountainous regions, are low.
6.) Computer processors are cooled by means of an internal fan.
8.) All of the delegates present voted in favour of the resolution.
9.) The directors were under pressure from the shareholders to reduce costs.

Exercise 2.

The following sentences are correct numbers: 1, 4, 5, 6 and 9. So, you should have ticked those boxes.

The other sentences are incorrect; they should be:

2.) The freedom they sought had much in common with the freedom they had lost.
3.) The jury acquitted the accused on the basis of the evidence.
7.) The PhD students were given a ‘viva voce’ as part of their assessment. (The preposition “to” is unecessary).
8.) According to recent statistics, the inflation rate is starting to decline.
10.) The irrigation system is effected by means of a series of underground pipes. (The preposition “as” is unecessary).

Return to learning object

Review of main points

So, the difficulty encountered by most non-native speakers in choosing the correct preposition has many causes. The absence of rules, the many different possible meanings of the highest frequency prepositions, combined with the number and variety of prepositional phrases used in academic writing, make this one of the most difficult areas of grammar for even the most advanced learners of English. The approach recommended here is three-fold: reading as much as possible in English to promote acquisition; careful proof-reading and reference to a good dictionary before submission of assignments; and memorisation of lists of dependent prepositions, testing oneself frequently. In addition, when encountering new vocabulary, it is a good idea to record the new word or collocation together with the most likely preposition(s) then learn the item as a whole, as you would with an idiom.

For further online and published materials on prepositions in English, see below.


J. Bitchener, S. Young, and D. Cameron. 2005. The effect of different types of corrective feedback on esl student writing. Journal of Second Language Writing.
G. Dalgish. 1985. Computer-assisted esl research and courseware development. Computers and Composition.

The following websites contain explanations of the use of prepositions:

Books on prepositions/with exercises to practise use of prepositions

• Test Your Prepositions by Peter Watcyn-Jones & Jake Allsop
• Collins Cobuild English Guides 1: Prepositions by John Sinclair
• Cambridge Grammar of English by Ronald Carter & Michael McCarthy, pp. 462-469
• Collins Cobuild Student’s Grammar by Dave Willis, pp. 42-43, 56-57, 74-79 and 156-157
• Cassell’s Students’ English Grammar by Jake Allsop, pp. 104-123
• A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum, pp. 143-165
• English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy, pp. 228-260
• Advanced Grammar in Use by Martin Hewings, pp. 176-189
• Advanced Language Practice with key by Michael Vince, pp. 131-143
• Grammar in Context by Hugh Gethin, pp.161-169

Return to learning object