How To Master English Prepositions By Yourself

How to master English prepositions by yourself
How to master English prepositions by yourself. Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst.

English prepositions seem to be a source of confusion for many English learners. I think this is because prepositions are more clear cut in many languages. Or maybe it’s because there seems to be so many more in English. It can be frustrating figuring out which one is the most suitable in a sentence. Whatever level of English mastery you currently have, the ideas in this article can show you how to master English prepositions by yourself.

Ways To Master English Prepositions

One of the quickest ways to learn prepositions is to do a search on YouTube and online blogs. Just type in the search box something like “learn prepositions” or “English prepositions” and see what comes up. If you have already done this, and want to do more advanced work on your own, the following methods could be helpful to you.

There is one book that is very effective in mastering prepositions. Unfortunately, it is out of print. However, I have seen a few copies sold on Amazon. And maybe your public library has a copy available. The title of the book is Prepositions: Dyad learning program by Alice C. Pack.

What’s helpful about this book is that both parts of the book have the exact content, except one has the answers. Not just a, b, c, or d. But the entire sentence. Which allows you to observe a correct use of that preposition. I recommend starting with this side of the book. Read all the sentences with the answers. This helps you to see patterns. And this observation helps you build your skill.

As much as you feel tempted to start with the side without the answers, I suggest that you don’t. The purpose of learning is to make the information a part of your knowledge, not to test yourself.

I know language classes often test your knowledge soon after you learn the material. This can be counter-productive. Let me give you an example. One French teacher found that her students remember 80-90% of what they learned in the past school year after returning from summer vacation. The norm is around 20%. So why did her students retain so much more?

Her secret lies in two factors. One, she does not test her students until they have at least 80% mastery. That means their test results would encourage them. This builds confidence. And that in turn builds a feeling of success. Do not underestimate the feeling of success in learning. It is one of the most powerful factor to learning success. It explains the phrase “success breeds success.”

The other secret of this teacher’s success is making learning relevant to her students. She uses games that the children enjoy. When I visited her class, her students couldn’t wait to play the games. Listening and speaking in French! And this was not an advanced class. This is the power of enjoyment when learning.

Advanced Techniques To Master Prepositions

I would like to share some advanced ways of improving your prepositions by yourself that are probably not taught in English class.

For Audio Learners

One is for audio learners. So, if you learn better by ear, you might explore this method. When you watch TV, listen to the radio or podcasts, do this for a few minutes. Listen for prepositions in sentences. When you are able to observe usage in daily context, it’s so much easier for you to become clearer on when to use which preposition. You can rewind the podcast to listen to a particular sentence again.

This audio training will help you become familiar with which preposition sounds right in certain context. Over time, this will become a part of your usage too.’

For Visual Learners

Another method may be more appealing to visual learners. Pick something you like to read. Anything. Instead of paying attention to the content, give more of your focus to how prepositions are used in the context of the sentences. Do this for a few minutes. Then continue reading as you usually do for enjoyment.

For Kinesthetic Learners

If you are a kinesthetic learner, try this method. Pick something you like to read. Observe how prepositions are used in context, then create your own sentences imitating the pattern. Change the noun and verb so you have a new context, but similar enough in pattern that you can use that same preposition. Since you like to involve movement in your learning, either write or type your imitation sentences

Combine The Techniques

You can also use all these techniques. One may be more appealing to you one day, and on another day, you might feel like doing something else. Variety is good for the brain. And using more than one sense to learn would enhance the experience.

So, to summarize, if you want to improve your English prepositions, you can search for “learn prepositions” on YouTube, online blogs, or go to the ESL section of a bookstore. But if you are ready for some advanced techniques, you can play with the methods for audio, visual, and kinesthetic learners. Let me know how your experimentation turns out.

If you find this article helpful, here is one on Learning new sounds in a foreign language.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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