Prepositional collocations (words that go together), a.k.a. prepositional phrase, are extremely common in English. So common, in fact, that it is absolutely essential (key, necessary, important) to learn them if you want to become fluent in English.
Unfortunately (not luckily, sadly), prepositions can be tricky to learn, and sometimes a prepositional phrase has absolutely no logic to how it is formed at all. Much like gendered articles in German, French, or Spanish, you just have to memorize them- there is no rule!
What exactly is a prepositional phrase?
A prepositional phrase is a group of words that lacks a verb or a subject, but which usually consists of a noun (person, place, thing) and a preposition (word expressing a relation), or a pronoun (word that stands for a noun) and a preposition.
Here is a list of some of the most common preposition collocations to learn in English, along with their meanings. Why not try memorizing a few, then using them in your daily English practice?
Up to you. = You can decide.
- For example: It’s up to you where we go to eat tonight. I doesn’t matter to me- you can choose.
At last = Finally.
- For example: He opened the door at last. I had been knocking for nearly 20 minutes!
- For example: At last! I have found the perfect wedding dress!
On foot = Walking.
- For example: We went to the cafe on foot, even though it was 2 miles away.
By mistake = Without meaning to, or on accident.
- For example: The child broke his toy by mistake.
- For example: I called the wrong number by mistake.
In advance = beforehand
- For example: You should do your homework in advance so that we can go to the movies on Wednesday.
- For example: If you need anything for your trip, let me know in advance so I can get it at the store before you go.
For instance = as an example
- For example: He’s always late. For instance, we agreed to meet at 4pm on Thursday, and he didn’t show up until almost 6!
Out of reach = too high up to be touched, or too large of a goal to achieve
- For example: The cookie jar was a little too far out of reach for the small child.
- For example: The promotion was completely out of reach for her, since she always left work early and never finished her projects on time.
Without fail = always
- For example: My husband takes me out for Valentine’s Day each year without fail. He never forgets!
By chance = without planning
- For example: I ran into Dennis the other day in the park just by chance. He was out with his dog, too.
At once = immediately
- For example: I know that when my mom asks me to do something, she wants me to do it at once.
- For example: When you hear the fire alarm, you must leave the building at once.
In common with = something that’s shared or the same
- For example: My girlfriend and I like riding bikes together on the weekend. We have a lot in common with each other!
By hand = to do something yourself, usually without machines
- For example: My uncle stitched this sweater completely by hand. He’s so talented!
For good = forever
- For example: Once you memorize these prepositional phrases, they’ll be with you for good!
Do you know of another common prepositional phrase in English? Try using one in a sentence in the comments below!
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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, yoga instructor, and has to giggle when people tell her to go somewhere “by feet”! We “walk” somewhere or go somewhere “by foot”. Don’t ask us why!