TOEFL Grammar Basics: Prepositions

TOEFL Preposition: Until, By, Since, During

What’s the difference between “by” and “until”?

Pay your bills by the end of the month.

I’m usually asleep by 12.

I have to hand in my essay by Friday.

The letter should get there by next week.

She waited until the intermission before she left.

They studied until 2 in the morning.

The trains in London run until midnight.

What’s the meaning of “until” with a negative verb?

The store doesn’t open until 10.

Don’t wait until next week to pay your bills!

What’s the meaning of “during”?

During the game, I was so bored!

I stepped out for a minute during the break.

What are you going to do during your summer vacation?

What’s the meaning of “since”?

What verb tense is used with “since”?

I’ve worked for Chase since last year.

Since childhood I’ve been interested in classical music.

I’ve been playing the piano since 1990.

TOEFL Preposition: At


* Places in the Neighborhood & Places in Your House

at +

the library

the salon

the bakery

the garage

the hospital


the shop

the red light

the market

12th Street

the airport




at +

the desk

the table

the gate

the window

the door

the computer



*Attending Meetings, Appointments, Obligations, Institutions

at +


the meeting



the dentist

soccer practice



*Describing the Exact Position in Relation to Something Bigger

at +

the end of the

the back of the

the side of the

the front of the

the bottom of the

the top of the

the corner of the

the edge of the


*Describing the State or Manner of Something: Adjective or Adverb Phrase

at peace, at attention, at risk, at rest, at ease,

*Verbs with "at": Movement, Special Attention, or Facial Expression

stare at, glare at, laugh at, look at, yell at, claw at

shoot at, throw at, aim at, swing at, growl at, snap at

*Emotional Reactions & Responses: Verbs & Adjectives


cheer at, clap at, rejoice at, stand up at, cry at, celebrate at


astounded at, shocked at, nervous at, indignant at, upset at

surprised at, speechless at, astonished at, thrilled at, amazed at, horrified at

*Describing Skills, Talents & Abilities: Nouns & Adjectives


good at, great at, super at, bad at, terrible at, skilled at, talented at


a whiz at, an expert at, a pro at, a star at, an amateur at, an old hand at


at 3:30, at midnight, at sunrise, at the beginning, at first, at halftime, at dawn, at dusk, at bedtime, at the same time, at different times, at one time, at once, at the end, at noon

*Numbers: age, level, cost, speed, rate, degree, level

at his age, at the speed limit, at 1,000 feet, at a 25% discount, at 8mph

at age 21, at 33 degrees, at level one, at top speed, at full price

TOEFL Preposition: By

*Proximity - "Beside/Near"

by the window, by the door, by the teacher, by the lake, by the post office, by the microphone, by the taxi stand

*The Way Something Is Done: Certain/Special Means

by check, by fax, by bus, by plane, by taxi

by writing, by cutting, by swimming, by listening, by working hard

*Expressing the "Agent" in a Passive Voice Sentence

Buildings are usually designed by architects.

The play was written by Shakespeare.

The books have been stolen by one of the students.

*Time: Not Later Than, Before a Certain Time

by Wednesday, by the earliest possible date, by the deadline, by next Monday, by the end of the week

*Move Past, Beyond, or Up To: Verbs

walk by, sail by, march by, file by, go by, pass by

fall by, roll by, fly by, drive by, come by, stroll by

*Origin, Source, & Occupation

by nature, by birth, by disposition, by profession, by reputation, by accident

*Alone or Without Help

by + oneself: by myself, by herself, by ourselves, by themselves, by himself

TOEFL Preposition: Of

*Belonging, Possession, Connection 

the name of     the pages of     the memories of          the hands of    the wheels of

the banks of    the scenes of   the cycles of                the pieces of    the title of

*Describing Senses and Sizes: Smell, Taste, Texture, Shape, Size, Sound

the smell of                 the size of                    the width of                 the sound of

the taste of                  the feel of                    the aroma of                the whistle of

the texture of               the sight of                  the flavor of                the cry of

*Describing Position with Direction & Place Words

the front of the house              the back of the bus     

the end of the block                the side of the building

the middle of the road             the back of the drawer

*MaterialBe made of

made of steel               made of silk                made of cotton                        made of plastic

*Containers & Sets

containers:     a box of, a carton of, a book of, a packet of, a can of, a tin of, a tube of

sets:                a series of, a book of, a collection of, a set of, a sequence of

*Measuring Parts of a Whole: Quantities, Sums, Fractions, Groups

a slice of bread, all of us, a piece of pie, a teaspoon of sugar, a pinch of salt, half of them

*Position, Title, Occupation, or Role

head of                        president of                 leader of                      secretary of                

manager of                  town of                        master of                     doctor of

*Origin & Membership

people of, animals of, Indians of, countries of, graduates of, citizens of, members of

*Literary, Artistic & Musical Works

works of Shakespeare             films of that director               the symphonies of Beethoven

*Recorded Works & Documents

an account of              a record of       a register of     a painting of    a photograph of

*Expressing Separation: Verbs, Nouns, Adjectives 

verbs: get rid of         be free of         rob of              relieve of         free of

nouns: a loss of          a release of      a freedom of    a removal of   

adjectives: deprived of          relieved of       cured of           free of             independent of

*Expressing Reactions & Actions: "Full of Emotion"

words of anger                        tears of rage                a gasp of shock           shouts of delight

a smile of chagrin        a sigh of relief             a look of horror           a tear of joy

*Connecting Causes & Results

fear of flying        stress of worry       anxiety of taking a test            love of swimming 

*Possessing or Containing

a land of beauty           a man of honor            the ring of truth           a writer of genius

people of power          a vow of silence          a place of peace           a creature of habit 

*Filled with or used for a Special Purpose

a time of rest               a day of remembrance             a moment of silence

an hour of reading       a place of relaxation               a period of mourning 

*Dates & Times

the 15th of April          the first day of the month        ten minutes of three

the start of June           the end of the year                  the 4th of July

*Emotions & Their Objects

fond of            afraid of          capable of       tired of            suspicious of  

envious of       bored of           aware of          ashamed of      proud of

*Verbs with "of"

approve of       smell of           despair of        repent of          beware of

dream of          disapprove of  think of           reek of             stink of

*Describing People's Actions: Adjectives

 nice of             silly of             selfish of         kind of             cruel of            rude of

TOEFL Preposition: For

*Help, Benefit, Positive Usage: Direction Something Is Sent Or Given, Reason Something Is Used

I make cookies for my kids. 

Bobby had to write a story for school. 

The phone call is for you.  

*Special Purpose

The desk is for studying. 

This path is for cycling.

*Substitution:  Thing for Thing & Person for Person

things:            I am using this box for a chair.

                        I sometimes use this coffee table for a desk.

people:            Sara does homework for me.

                        The lawyer's assistant responds to email for him.

*Showing Favor, Support, Defense, Preservation: Verbs & Nouns

verbs: vote for, fight for, run for, work for, cheer for, root for, pray for, campaign for

nouns: respect for, love for, speech for, work for, exchange for, effort for

*Direction of Movement Towards a Destination: Verbs

sail for             leave for          depart for        head for           run for             sail for 

*Intangible Purpose or Goal

for relaxation               for amusement             for fun                         for inspiration             

for kicks                      for entertainment         for the sake of it          for peace of mind

*Desire & Longing: Verbs & Adjectives 

verbs: beg for, starve for, plead for, cry for, long for, yearn for, wish for, hope for

adjectives: eager for, greedy for, anxious for, ambitious for, hungry for, thirsty for

*Explaining the Meaning

Green is for go.

Red is for stop.

SF stands for "science fiction."

The Italian word for food is "cibo."

*Payment, Price & Amount 

The apples are two for a dollar.

You can watch a movie for almost nothing through the internet.

The elderly travel for lower fares.

I got this new hat for a great price. 

*Causes & Effects

causes: congratulate for, apologize for, scold for, punish for, reward for, fail for

results: famous for, good for, necessary for, important for, bad for, helpful for

*Time:  Duration & Appointed Time

duration:  for 3 hours, for 10 miles, for 2 minutes, for a while, for a bit, for months, for the summer, for the night, for a week, for now, for ages, for a second, for a moment

appointed time: for Thanksgiving, for tomorrow, for tonight, for the year, for the winter

TOEFL Preposition: On

*Touching or Connected to

the tires on the bike     the name on the invitation       the dog on the rug      

sit on the sofa              sign on the dotted line             wear a ring on your finger

*Movement Toward, Touching or Reaching

throw a pillow on the bed       pour milk on the cereal           shine light on his face

*Movement Against or Opposing

pound on the roof       march on the White House     make a raid on the cookie jar

*Position: Next to or At the Edge of

the house on the beach           seats on the baseline      a line on both sides of the street

*Position: Direction or Nearness

on my left                    on the right                  on the far side             on the north side

*Using or Through the Use of

watch the news on TV                                    live on fast food                      travel on a budget      

buy a new house on credit                   arrive on foot                          chat on the phone 

*Regarding a Topic

a speech on     a report on          a discussion on         a seminar on                a paper on

thoughts on     comments on       ideas on                   news on                       vote on

*Condition, State & Status

on hold            on vacation                  on course         on fire              on their best behavior

*Membership & Participation

on the committee         on the team      on the faculty              on the board       on the squad

*Following & Resulting from

On hearing the news, he left immediately.

I got the book on request.

On second thought, he realized I was correct.

We made the decision for you on the assumption that you wouldn’t mind.

*Method of Travel  (except for cars, trucks, RV’s, small boats)

on a cruise       on a ship          on a yacht        on a sled          on a plane        on foot

on a bike          on a train         on a tour          on a journey    on a flight        on the subway

*Days, Dates, Times, & Special Days (or Days Described by an Adjective) 

on my birthday            on Sunday       on the fifteenth            on May 28th     on the hour

on the first Monday    on time            on a sunny day            on weekdays   on cold days

TOEFL Preposition: In

*Containment & Immersion: Physical or Abstract

in the ocean     in this area                   in our imagination       in the USA

in the purse     in the refrigerator        in memory                   in Chicago

in the sand       in the doorway                        in the paper                 in your pocket

*"in" + Nouns of Emotion & Reaction

 in amazement               in awe              in pain             in anger           in sorrow

*State or Condition

in competition              in secret           in view            in a hurry        in love


write a check in pen, draw a picture in blue, decorate in plaid, speak in French

*Portrayed or Shown

 The article in the paper was wrong.

The information in the records was accurate.

The character in the book was likeable.

*Wearing Clothes & Accessories

the man in the tall hat, the girl in black,  the poor children in rags,  the officers in uniform, the model in the designer clothes, the boys in shorts, the dancer in the tutu 

*Employment & Participation

That doctor works in medicine.

Their family has been in the theatre for generations.

I just realized that your father works in film. 

The girls in the dance club are so busy. 

*Divided, Organized or Arranged

in piles             in bunches       in order            in lines             in groups         in a circle

in stacks          in tiers             in sections       in teams           in rows            in a block

*Method of Travel: Cars, Trucks, RV’s, small boats

in a car            in his RV         in the subway car        in a canoe        in a rowboat

*Time: Season, Year, Month & Time of Day (except dawn, noon, night or midnight) 

in summer       in 1982            in August        in the morning             in the daytime