Prepositions are difficult to pin down because there are only a few rules, and these rules have many exceptions. We Filipinos find prepositions particularly problematic because we have only a handful of prepositions.

Let’s see how we use the preposition sa:

Take note of prepositional pairs. No one really taught us to say I am familiar with this song or This song is familiar to me, or to spot the difference between the two. Somehow we just knew which one works because we had heard or read these prepositional pairs. The best way to learn prepositions is to read, read, read.

Prepositions are words that connect or relate to nouns and pronouns to preceding words and phrases:


Margaret moved to a new apartment.

  • The case against the mayor will not prosper.
  • Women throughout the country rejoiced when the RH bill was enacted.
  • There is truth in what you say.

Allow me to share a method that has helped me choose the correct preposition. I’ll try not to use technical terms.

A preposition does not exist by itself. It relates to either:

— its HEAD (verb, noun or adjective, which comes before) or

— its OBJECT (noun or pronoun, which comes after it).

How do we choose the correct preposition?

a. First, look to the head. Does the verb, noun or adjective require its own preposition? If yes, then look for the proper pairing. For reference, check out http://www.learnersdictionary.com or any other dictionary to find out which preposition is used for the head (verb, noun or adjective).

b. If not, look to the object, which is often a noun or a pronoun. Does the noun require its object? If yes, then look for the proper pairing. For reference, check out the dictionary to determine which preposition is paired with the noun.

The head can be a verb, noun or an adjective. These are examples of head + preposition pairs:


Check out a partial list of verb phrases at Dave Sperling’s ESL Cafe.


There’s a partial list of noun phrases at a site for speakers of another language–it looks like a pretty good list.


The object in a prepositional pair is often a noun. These are examples of a preposition relating to the object:


6 thoughts on “Problematic prepositions

  1. Pingback: Outlook on or outlook in? | Using a Borrowed Language

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