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Learn Prepositions: Tips and Tricks

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Learning a language properly, with structured classes, really is the best way to learn; this way, you learn the rules and can, over time, create your own sentences and have natural conversations building on your knowledge base. At EC English Language Centres, we focus on grammar and offer free workshops and lessons outside of the timetable so students can practise with others from different classes and levels. Being based in English-speaking countries allows for a full-immersion experience too; you will get to use your language skills in a variety of scenarios every day! 

Navigating English prepositions can be challenging for learners. While some rules governing their use are straightforward, others can be baffling. Prepositions associated with time are generally easier to grasp, like in the phrase, “I was born on Christmas Day” or “Meet me at 3pm.” Similarly, spatial prepositions, as seen in “The plane soared above the school” or “The keys are on the table,” are quite intuitive. Yet, when it comes to expressions like “I’m keen on politics” or “I’m gazing at you,” things can get a tad more complex. 

One vital insight is that mastering prepositions isn’t just a challenge for students, but here’s the silver lining: while using prepositions flawlessly can be daunting, making minor errors doesn’t usually impede understanding. 

Consider this scenario: It’s a Monday, and your instructor wishes to inquire about your weekend activities. Which of the following questions would she most likely pose: 

A) “How did you spend your time during the weekend?” 

B) “What activities did you engage in over the weekend?” 

The correct phrasing is B. However, even if A were used, the query remains understandable. 

To streamline your journey with prepositions, here are two nuggets of advice: 

1. Absorb prepositions as native speakers do. When they internalise a word, they simultaneously learn the associated preposition. Hence, instead of merely grasping “to depend,” learn “to depend ON.” Rather than just “I’m fond,” record it as “I’m fond OF.” 

2. Recognise patterns with synonyms or antonyms. Words that convey similar or contrasting sentiments usually employ identical prepositions. Take “I excel AT soccer” versus “I’m mediocre AT basketball” or “the commencement OF a ceremony” versus “the conclusion OF an event.” 

As a rule of thumb, when in doubt, deduce the appropriate preposition based on synonymous or antonymous terms.  

By understanding and practicing these insights, you’re one step closer to mastering the intricate dance of English prepositions. 

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