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"The Great Preposition Mystery is designed to be used as a review of prepositions in an intermediate/advanced grammar course. The vocabulary is not graded, and some students may have to use a dictionary more frequently than others.

The student gets practice with prepositions in three ways: by choosing an appropriate preposition in context; by selecting an appropriate preposition in a narrowly defined situation; and by using prepositions in student-generated sentences.

As the students work their way through the mystery story and the exercises in each chapter, they should make fewer and fewer errors. By the time the students solve the mystery, they should have solved the Great Preposition Mystery.

Instructions and Notes to Teacher and Students

1. In every chapter of the mystery story, certain passages contain blanks where prepositions have been deleted. The students should fill in the blank with an appropriate preposition. In some cases, more than one preposition may be correct either because two prepositions have the same meaning (e.g., next to, by) or because there is insufficient context (e.g., He walked along (down) the road.). In some cases, the blank may use more than one word where the appropriate preposition consists of two words (e.g., next to, instead of).



2. In most chapters of the mystery story, certain passages do not contain blanks. In these cases, the students should note all prepositions. However, they should not note words which are particles of two-word verbs or which function as adverbs or conjunctions. Look at the following sentences:

The gasoline tank blew up.

He didn't catch on to the joke.

The teacher kept on talking.

The airplane took off.

The underlined words are particles of two-word verbs and should not be circled as prepositions. Particles of two-word verbs cannot usually be separated from the main verb.

Look at the following sentences:

He fell off the cliff.

She came in the house.

He fell off.

She came in.

He fell off of the cliff.

In the first sentence, the word off functions as a preposition. In the second, the word off functions as an adverb. In the third, off functions as an adverb and of is a preposition. In the fourth sentence, in is a preposition. In the fifth sentence, in is an adverb.



Look at the following sentences:

We started the exam after 9 o'clock.

We started the exam after hearing the bell.

We started the exam after the teacher told us to begin.

Everyone passed the exam but me.

I sat there looking at the exam but not reading it.

I took the exam but (I) didn't pass it.

In the first and second sentences, the word after functions as a preposition. Such words are prepositions when they are followed either by a noun phrase (9 o'clock) or by a gerund (hearing). They function as subordinate conjunctions when followed by a subject + verb (the teacher told). Similarly, the word but functions as a preposition in the fourth and fifth sentences and as a conjunction in the sixth sentence.



3. Answers separated by slash / or given in parentheses are suitable alternatives. Answers separated by a comma, indicate the answers for more than one blank in the item.

A Review of Prepositions

A preposition is used to connect nouns and noun structures to other structures in the sentence. A noun structure following the preposition is called the object of the preposition.

The object of the preposition can be a noun: We gave a present to our secretaries.

a pronoun: We gave a present to them.

a gerund: We thought about giving a present to them.

a noun clause: We thought about giving a present to whoever worked for us.

Placement of Prepositions

The preposition is usually placed before the object. But it may be placed at the end of a sentence in a question: Which country did you go to?

an adjective clause: This map shows the countries which we went to.

a noun clause: We forget which countries we went to.

An adjectival prepositional phrase is placed after the noun it modifies.

The book on the desk is mine.

The dog next door bothers me.

An adverbial prepositional phrase, like any adverb, may be placed anywhere in the sentence. Or it may be placed at the

end: I came at nine o'clock.

middle: He leaves in two hours to visit his friends.

beginning: On Monday, I have my French class.

Types of Prepositions

There are one- and two-word prepositions:

one-word: in, at, over, among

two-word: next to, instead of

There are times when prepositions can be used without objects. At such times, they no longer function as prepositions but become either (1) two-word verbs; (2) adverbs; or (3) conjunctions.

Two-word verbs (verb + particle)

Examples: bring up (raise) find out (discover)

call off (cancel) catch on (understand)

These combinations have idiomatic meanings and therefore are not discussed in this text. Examples, however, will be found in the mystery story.


Example: Did you take the elevator? No, we walked up.


Examples: He came before I did. Please come before the meeting starts."