Many English learners have trouble with prepositions. Using the incorrect preposition can completely change the context of a sentence and cause the speaker problems. So the correct use of prepositions is vitally important in English.

For example, the difference between “to” and “at” in the context of throwing a ball could save your life. If someone tells you they want to throw a ball To you, they mean that they want you to be ready to catch it. However, if someone says I am going to throw this ball AT you, it means they want to hit you with it.

The difference being as follows:

– “Can I throw this ball to you?”

– “Sure, thanks.”

Or

– “Can I throw this ball at you?”

– “No, please don’t. It might hurt me.”

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Another example is using a preposition or not using one can change the whole meaning of a sentence as well. If I tell you “I am flying IN a plane” it means I am in the back (probably economy class) watching movies, eating, drinking and generally having a good time. However, if I tell you “I am flying a plane” (no preposition) it means I am in control of the plane. No movies or snacks for me as I have to keep everyone safe now.

So, as you can see, a properly used preposition is vital to express exactly want you want to communicate to the other person. An incorrectly used preposition can confuse or even anger the other person if they feel you are threatening to do something to them.

Another common mistake I have noticed is the difference between “on” and “in”. Many times I have heard people saying that something is IN something else, rather than ON something else. As an example, imagine if I asked you these two questions –

– “Can I put this knife ON your leg?”

Or

– “Can I put this knife IN your leg?”

The first question, while a little weird, is completely harmless. Putting the knife on your leg would cause you no harm. A knife is just resting on your leg now. Now, the second question is completely different. This means they want to stab you in the leg with the knife. This undoubtedly would hurt a lot and I would imagine most of us would rather not have a knife IN our leg.

How about asking whether you can do something for someone or with someone? For example, if I ask you do you want me to lift something FOR you, it means I will do it alone. However, if I ask you do you want me to lift something WITH you, it means I will help you to lift it. The second suggestion sound a lot easier for me. I would rather lift something heavy with someone than for them.

So, the importance of prepositions is quite apparent. In some cases it may even save your life.

K. Charles

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