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Style Manual

Prepositions

Prepositions show people the relationship between words or groups of words. Choose them deliberately to convey meaning to users.

A preposition creates relationships between words or phrases

Prepositions show a relationship between a noun or verb. Use prepositions to give information about the time and place of an action or thing.

Examples of prepositions are:

  • in
  • before
  • around
  • since
  • between.

Prepositions often come before related words or phrases.

Example

Put the book on the table. ['On' shows the position of 'the book' in relation to 'the table'.]

During her time in office, she launched 50 projects. ['During' refers to 'her time'; 'in' refers to 'office'.]

They had many discussions about the restructure. ['About' refers to 'the restructure'.]

You can use some prepositions as a different type of word, depending on their function in the sentence. For example, 'down' can be a preposition, part of a verb or an adverb.

Example

I walked down the hill. ['Down' is a preposition.]

Prices came down from an all-time high. ['Down' is part of the phrasal verb 'came down'. 'From' is the preposition.]

Please read down to the bottom of the page. ['Down' is an adverb describing the verb 'read'.]

Some words only work with specific prepositions

Not all prepositions work for every word or phrase. Some words are always followed by particular prepositions. For example, 'different' is always followed by 'to' or 'from', but not by 'than'. Check a dictionary if you are not sure.

Correct

This is different from that.

The discussion about the program is continuing.

Incorrect

This is different than that.

The discussion around the program is continuing.

Release notes

The digital edition relates grammatical concepts to the principles of plain language. It relates word choice to grammatical information about types of words.

It provides an overview on types of words to introduce grammatical concepts about parts of speech and how they relate to sentence structure.

The sixth edition called types of words ‘word classes’. It had summary information about parts of speech on pages 68 to 70. This formed part of Chapter 5 on grammar.

The Content Guide did not have any in-depth information on grammatical concepts.

About this page

References

Dixon JC and Bolitho B (2005–2019a) Course notes and exercises: English grammar for writers, editors and policymakers, Centre for Continuing Education, Australian National University, Canberra.

Dixon JC and Bolitho B (2005–2019b) Report writing, Centre for Continuing Education, Australian National University, Canberra.

Murphy EM with Cadman H (2014) Effective writing: plain English at work, 2nd edn, Lacuna, Westgate.

Seely J (2001) Oxford everyday grammar, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Stilman A (2004) Grammatically correct, Writer’s Digest Books, Ohio.

Truss L (2003) Eats, shoots and leaves: the zero tolerance approach to punctuation, Profile Books, London.

This page was updated Wednesday 9 September 2020.

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