Is WHEN a Preposition? Common Prepositions In English.
When is not considered a preposition by many people in English, but it can also be considered a conjunction or even an adverb depending on its use in the sentence and its intended meaning.
In this article, you will learn about when to use when as a preposition and examples of when used as both prepositions and conjunctions/adverbs in various types of sentences to help you decide whether to use when as a preposition or other part of speech based on the context of your sentence.
What Is a Preposition?
Prepositions are common words that indicate the position of a noun or pronoun.
You can recognize a preposition by imagining a mouse. In each of the following sentences, the preposition in bold connects the mouse to the other noun.
- A mouse crept to the cheese.
- The mouse hid from the yelling individual.
- The mouse ran down the leg of the table.
- A mouse was seen sleeping with its cheese.
- A mouse ran up the leg of the table.
- On the table sat the mouse.
- A mouse thought through his options.
- A mouse dashed under the fridge.
Examples of Prepositions
Prepositions may be small words, but it is essential to use the correct ones. In any case, bringing a box of donuts to work is a very different story than arriving at work in a box of donuts.
Once you understand which words function as prepositions and how prepositions function, you can avoid grammatical issues and human-sized donut boxes.
Prepositions can be used in four different ways in a sentence:
- show the location: (A book is under her bed.)
- show time: (I’ll be there in six minutes.)
- show connections between ideas: (Tell me about the weather last night.)
- show direction: (You’re heading toward a traverse.)
Most prepositions have multiple functions. The preposition over, for example, can be used in all three ways:
- Location: Hold a poster over my desk.
- Time: The distance to the hospital is over an hour.
- Direction: I’m moving over there now.
- Idea: George isn’t over the girl he used to date yet.
Prepositions and their uses
Prepositions are tricky. Some of them sound like verbs, some of them have lots of different meanings depending on their usage, and some people even try to say they’re not accurate at all!
“When” is a fascinating word commonly used as a conjunction. It would be beneficial to know when and how to use it correctly.
These are just some of the myths about prepositions that we’ll be debunking today by giving you an overview of the common prepositions in English (along with their singular and plural forms).
Verbs and pronouns can follow it.
In other uses, it is a conjunction introducing clause-like structures which give more information on one aspect of something previously mentioned; this use is often found between two clauses with different subjects.
- I am happy to say she did well on her test, but I am disappointed that she didn’t get any better grades.
- The weather was not good yesterday, but today we had some sunshine.
- The sky was blue last night, which made me feel better.
- His doctor said he should come back tomorrow because they needed more tests done on him.
- My dog barked at me when I came home today, so now I know he’s feeling good again.
Is WHEN a preposition?
“When” is a subordinating conjunction in traditional grammar, but it is a preposition in the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.
This phrase is not a preposition. It functions as a conjunction or an adverb. Only the Cambridge English Language Grammar recognizes “when” as a preposition. Traditional grammar does not recognize “when” as a preposition.
Is “When” a Conjunction?
“When” is acceptable as a conjunction? We should use it this way when attempting to connect two sentences. Also, in this form, we may be able to remove the period between the two sentences.
Is “When” An Adverb?
“When” can also be used as an adverb. It cannot ordinarily modify a verb, but it can introduce an adverbial clause. It’s a great way to demonstrate how something changes based on Time or an event.
What kind of word is “when”?
As described previously, “when” can function as an adverb, conjunction, noun, or pronoun.
The following are examples of its use:
- Adverb usage: When are they expected to arrive? (direct question)
- Adverb usage: Do you know when they’re going to arrive? (indirect question)
- Conjunction usage: They were given instructions regarding when to sleep.
- Conjunction usage: When I am working, I am the happiest.
- Conjunction usage: I’ll complete the task when I have the Time.
- Conjunction usage: Yesterday, when I arrived, it was raining outside.
- Noun usage: A quality article addresses the who, what, when, where, why, and how.
- Pronoun usage: When did I become in need of your permission?
Other Words That Are Both A Preposition And A Conjunction
“When” is not a preposition but not a conjunction. There are a few English words that, depending on their usage, possess both prepositional and conjunctional properties.
Some of them:
As you can see, each of these examples relates to timing or potential occurrences. However, they are more specific than “when” about the times, which is why they work better as prepositions in particular sentences.
List of Common Prepositions in English
There are several hundred prepositions in the English language, each used to establish a connection between concepts. Determine how many you already know and how many you’ve never used.
Below is a list of common prepositions in English:
- next to
What Is a Prepositional Phrase?
A prepositional phrase is formed when an object follows a preposition in a sentence. Prepositional phrases function as adjectives or adverbs to modify nouns or verbs.
- The kids sat up against the rock wall.
- John went through his memory.
- He’s going to the market.
- Alex texted me during the game.
- I am on the call.
What Do Prepositions Do?
Prepositions denote the connections between other parts of speech. There are various ways to use various types of prepositions in a sentence. Depending on the context, a single preposition can serve multiple purposes.
Prepositions Show Location
Numerous prepositions indicate a noun’s physical location in space (spatial relationships).
Words such as across, next to, and under can assist the reader in understanding the precise location of something or someone.
Examples of location-specific prepositions include:
- Avoid sitting across from your brother at the Thanksgiving meal.
- The coffee cups are by the water glasses.
- Could you take a seat next to me?
- Please arrange the chairs along the far wall.
- It’s great to be among brothers.
- She’s waiting for you at the front door.
Prepositions show Time
Prepositions can also indicate temporal relationships (temporal relationships). For instance, the word around works in both the spatial and temporal phrases “around the block” and “around noon.”
- Let’s dine out after the performance.
- We’ll arrive between 9 and 10 a.m.
- The duration of the American Civil War was from 1861 to 1865.
- This will take around an hour.
- She arrived at work at 8:00.
Prepositions Show Direction
Although prepositions cannot show action (that is the job of the verb), they can show movement by indicating the noun’s direction.
These prepositions are frequently confused with adverbs, which indicate the location of an action. In contrast to adverbs, however, prepositions require objects to complete their meaning.
- Over the lake, the duck flew.
- Let us travel to Paris.
- Alex directed toward the campground.
- We drove around the vicinity.
- The vehicle drove into the parking garage.
- The airplane made its way through the classroom.
Prepositions Show Connections Between Ideas
You’ll also find that prepositions indicate relationships between concepts (logical relationships). They connect two nouns that are not physically close but have another logical relationship.
- He looks just like his grandfather at that age.
- I am voting against the candidate who supports a tax increase.
- Nora serves as a university librarian.
- He lives with his wife and four cats.
- My cousins were fighting over the car.
Prepositions followed by nouns.
In English, we use many different prepositions to show how things are related to each other.
- For example, we use the preposition in to show that something is inside of something else.
- We use the preposition to show that something is on top of something else.
- And we use the preposition under to show that something is beneath something else.
Some prepositions have no nouns after them at all: for example, out, over, and by.
We also use some common phrases as prepositions: for instance, up to means to an amount or degree; past means moving past; and beyond means beyond a certain point or limit.
It can be challenging to remember which prepositions follow which words. One way to learn them is with word pairs: two words next to each other that share the same meaning.
A word pair for this lesson would be out-of-out where out follows, and it has nothing following it, just like when a person leaves one place and goes into another.
Prepositions followed by infinitive verbs.
Prepositions are small words that we use to show relationships between other words in a sentence. We often use them to show Time, location, or direction.
- I’m going to the store. (direction)
- I’ll meet you at the park. (location)
- I’m leaving on Wednesday. (Time)
- What are you doing this weekend?
- We’re going to the mall tomorrow.
- We’re watching TV tonight.
- What should I wear today?
- You can wear anything you want!
- It’s up to you.
- Whatever makes you comfortable.
- It doesn’t matter what we do; it’s just for fun!
Here are some common prepositions and their meanings:
- above-higher than something else
- beside-next to something else
- below-lower than something else
- between in the middle of two things or people/things
- During-at a specific period/event; used with days of the week, months of the year, seasons of the year, years, hours of day or night, periods of months and years…etc.
Adverbial prepositional phrases
Prepositional phrases can be divided into two types: adverbial and adjectival. Adverbial phrases answer when, where, how, or to what extent.
They are often used to describe the circumstances under which something happened.
For example, I need it right now. This sentence right now answers the question of when I need it.
There are many other common adverbial prepositional phrases, such as:
- Just before; at that moment; in front of; behind my back; far from, far away from; close to (me); near (me).
The adjective type includes expressions like a good student who did well on the test. These phrases answer the questions of what kind, which one, or whose.
An example would be an easy math problem for elementary school students. These types of phrases also may follow linking verbs such as appear and seem.
- For example, Peter appears to have eaten all the cookies. Here again, Peter’s action appears to have been eating all the cookies. However, it could mean that he only seems to have eaten them.
Prepositional phrases functioning as adjectives
Prepositional phrases can function as adjectives in a sentence. For example, The book on the table is mine. In this sentence, the prepositional phrase on the table functions as an adjective to describe the book.
- Other common prepositional phrases that can function as adjectives include: in front of, behind, under, and next to.
The following sentences provide examples of each prepositional phrase used as an adjective:
- In front of me was my son with his arms around a woman I had never seen before.
- Behind us was her daughter, hiding her face in her mother’s dress.
- Underneath the sink was my dirty socks and spilled cereal.
- Next to him was my favorite sweater; for some reason, it always made me feel better about everything else going wrong in my life.
- Across from them was an old family photo of my grandparents with all their children.
- On top of the bookshelf were piles and piles of half-read books.
- Beside them was a jar full of loose change.
Practice Your Prepositions
Once you’re comfortable with prepositions, you’ll see them everywhere (and use them).
Prepare yourself to use prepositions correctly by learning everything there is to know about them and practicing their use.
Review the prepositional rules to avoid future grammatical errors.
Learn the distinction between in and on, particularly when discussing Time and location.
While at it, be sure to use of vs. for correctly.
Explore the various uses of the preposition, both as a preposition and as other parts of speech.
Prepositions are words that indicate relationships between other words in a sentence.
They can show direction, location, Time, or introduce an object. When is not always a preposition, but it can be used as one.