Common Errors With Prepositions

May 8, 2020 | GRAMMAR

From time to time, I see that my students make mistakes with the prepositions they have chosen to use. While native speakers can still understand what you are trying to say when you use a preposition imprecisely, being able to use correct ones will make your English sound more fluent. We are going to look at some common errors that are made when it comes to prepositions. The goal is from now onwards, you will avoid these mistakes in both your spoken and written English.

    1. On my own/ by myself
      • I did it by my own.
      • I did it on my own/ by myself.

      Rule: Use either ‘on one’s own’ or ‘by oneself’, but don’t mix them up.

    2. On foot
      • They go to the park by foot.
      • They go to the park on foot.

      Rule: ‘On foot’ is the correct expression. This stems from the fact that ‘on’ is used for actions or movements that involve using body parts. Meanwhile, ‘by’ is used to refer to means of transport such as train, coach, plane, bus, etc.

    3. On behalf of
      • He spoke in behalf of the volunteers.
      • He spoke on behalf of the volunteers.

      Rule: ‘On behalf of sb’ or ‘on sb’s behalf’ means done for another person’s benefit or support, or because you are representing the interests of that person.

    4. Admission to
      • She failed to gain admission for the university of her choice.
      • She failed to gain admission to the university of her choice.

      Rule: ‘To’ is the right preposition after ‘admission’ when we refer to the act of accepting sb into an institution, organization, etc or the right to enter a place or to join a large organization.
      Last admissions to the museum are at 4pm.
      Admission to the World Trade Organization should enhance our economic prospects.

    5. Good at
      • SI am very good in chemistry.
      • I am very good at chemistry.

      Rule: ‘Good at sth’ is the correct expression. The same rule works for equivalents of ‘good’ (e.g., smart, clever, quick, etc) as well as its antonyms (e.g., bad, weak, slow, etc).

    6. Marry sb
      • He married with his friend’s sister.
      • He married his friend’s sister.

      Rule: When ‘marry’ functions as a verb, it is followed by an object pronoun without any preposition.

    7. Married to
      • She is married with a wealthy businessman.
      • She is married to a wealthy businessman.

      Rule: ‘Married’ here serves as an adjective, and it collocates with to instead of with.

    8. Divorced from
      • My sister is divorced with her longtime husband.
      • My sister is divorced from her longtime husband.

      Rule: The correct preposition that goes with ‘divorced’ is from, not with.

    9. Graduate from
      • His son graduated at university last year.
      • His son graduated from university last year.

      Rule: We say ‘graduate from’ a university/ college/ school/ institution, etc.

    10. Addicted to
      • A great many children are addicted with video games.
      • A great many children are addicted to video games.

      Rule: ‘Addicted to sth’ is the correct collocation.

    11. Been to
      • Have you ever been in Japan?
      • Have you ever been to Japan?

      Rule: We say been to a country, a city, a town, etc, but not been in.

    12. Superior to
      • For babies, breastfeeding is superior than bottle-feeding.
      • For babies, breastfeeding is superior to bottle-feeding.

      Rule: ‘Superior’ is a comparative adjective that means better than average or better than other people or things of the same type. Therefore, we don’t use than with ‘superior’ because of redundancy. The right preposition is to. The same rule applies for the antonym of ‘superior’ which is ‘inferior’ (inferior to).

    13. Senior to
      • She is senior than me, so I have to obey her orders.
      • She is senior to me, so I have to obey her orders.

      Rule: ‘Senior’ is a comparative adjective that means older, higher in rank, or more experienced than other people. Akin to ‘superior’, ‘senior’ is followed by to instead of than. The same holds true for the antonym of ‘senior’ which is ‘junior’ (junior to).

    14. Prefer (A) to (B)
      • I prefer Coke than Pepsi.
      • I prefer Coke to Pepsi.

      Rule: ‘Prefer’ means liking sth more than or better than sth else, so to should be used in place of than.

    15. Despite sth (= in spite of)
      • Despite of their internal conflicts, the band were able to stay together for two decades.
      • Despite their internal conflicts, the band were able to stay together for two decades.

      Rule: We use either despite or in spite of; despite of does not exist. Also note that ‘despite’ or ‘in spite of’ can be followed by a noun or gerund. We do not use ‘despite’ or ‘in spite of’ before a clause.

    16. Reach sth
      • They reached at the airport just in time.
      • They reached the airport just in time.

      Rule: ‘Reach’ here means ‘arrive at’ a place and should not be accompanied by any preposition.

    17. Attend sth
      • He did not attend at the conference last year.
      • He did not attend the conference last year.

      Rule: When we refer to an event (e.g., class, conference, meeting), there should be no preposition following ‘attend’.

    18. Enter sth
      • She entered into the interview room.
      • She entered the interview room.

      Rule: ‘Enter’ is among verbs that are followed by direct objects without prepositions.

    19. Comprise sth
      • His new album comprises of 15 brand-new tracks.
      • His new album comprises 15 brand-new tracks.

      Rule: We say comprise sth, include sth, or consist of sth; however, there is no such thing as comprise of sth.

    20. Discuss sth
      • Let’s discuss about our next steps.
      • Let’s discuss our next steps.

      Rule: Although we talk about sth, speak about sth, or argue about sth, we do not discuss about sth. ‘Discuss’ should not be followed by any direct preposition. However, we can discuss sth with sb. For example: We already discussed our proposal with our clients.

    21. Lack sth
      • Most of the snacks in the vending machine lack of nutritional value.
      • Most of the snacks in the vending machine lack nutritional value.

      Rule: When we use ‘lack’ as a verb, it should be followed by no preposition. However, we say ‘lack of’ when ‘lack’ is used as a noun. For example: I have a lack of experience with this tool.

    22. Near sth
      •  They live near to the airport.
      • They live near the airport.

      Rule: Either near sth or close to sth is used, but near to sth does not exist.


Cambridge English Dictionary Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 10th edition


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