Commonly Confused Prepositions and How To Use Them
Most commonly confused prepositions pairs are: ABOUT and ON, BESIDE and BESIDES, ACROSS and THROUGH, LIKE and AS, and BETWEEN and AMONG
The use of prepositions in spoken English has left ESL students wondering. Upper intermediate to advanced learners more often than not depend on how “good” or “bad” the preposition sounds when determining whether its use in a particular sentence is erroneous or not. Thus, hard and fast rules of grammar are often taken for granted. While this strategy works in a few cases, this fails to address “learning” in the true sense.
ABOUT and ON
These prepositions could mean “regarding” or “related to”.
ABOUT is used when referring to a discussion, which is random. It is not academic and not made for a special purpose while ON is used when referring to one, which is made for academic and more specific purpose.
- My father and I talked about my university entrance exam. (This talk is not about any academic matter and not for a special purpose.)
- One of our Psychology professors will give a short talk on Human Behavior. (This talk is academic in nature.
BESIDE and BESIDES
BESIDE means next to something and BESIDES means other than or aside from.
- My classmate was seated beside me in our history class. (My classmate was seated next to me.)
- Besides Mathematics, my favorite subjects are Linguistics and Biology. (I like Mathematics and I also like Linguistics and Biology.)
ACROSS and THROUGH
THROUGH means going inside a place with things or walls on all sides (referring to entering a three- dimensional space) while ACROSS means going to a place without particular dimensions such as a vast area with no walls or divisions.
- I went through a small hole leading to the tunnel. (A hole can have sides divisions)
- Jenny’s dream is to fly across the Pacific Ocean. (The Pacific Ocean is so wide and vast such that there is no division at all.)
AS and LIKE
AS when followed by a noun means ‘in the role of’ (as + noun) and LIKE when followed by a noun means ‘in the same way as’ (as + noun).
- As a lawyer, I make sure that I help my clients the best way possible. (My role as a lawyer makes requires me to help my clients.)
- I am underweight just like my sister. (I am underweight in the same way as my sister.)
BETWEEN and AMONG
BETWEEN is used when naming different specific nouns. May involve 2 or more nouns. AMONG is used when naming nouns which are part of a group not named specifically. Usually must be 3 or more nouns.
- Experts say that there is a strong relationship between smoking and lung cancer. (Smoking and lung cancer are 2 nouns named in the sentence.)
- The agreement between the three schools, which are St. Joseph Institute, Mary’s College and Oakwood School- will benefit students who wish to study online. (Even if there are 3 nouns used in the sentence, between is used instead of among because the nouns are specific being names of schools.)
- The friends discuss among them who is going to pay for lunch. (This sentence has nouns, which are not specifically named.)
1. Two nouns- specific or non- specific= BETWEEN
2. Three or more nouns- specific= BETWEEN
3. Three or more nouns- non- specific= AMONG