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Some troublesome prepositions



Deciding when to use to, at, and in, can be difficult. Prepositions, like into and onto, simply compound the problem. Here is some help.
  1. Use to when there is change, motion, travel, or an activity that may or may not have been completed.

    I am going to sleep.
    She is going to change her dress.
    She went to the store.
    I asked her to dance.
    They went to Paris.
    You want to leave.
    Speak to me.

  2. Use at to describe location of someone or something that is already there.

    You will find him at the second table.
    I left her at home.
    He left his books at school.
    She met him at the cocktail party.
    The evening classes were held at the downtown college.
    They waited at the bus stop.
    He purchased a newspaper at the news stand.

  3. Use in to imply within - that you, someone or something is already there and inside.

    She spent a summer in Paris (within the city, rather than near Paris or just outside of Paris).
    We sat in the theater for three hours.
    He was in the aircraft for seven hours. (i.e., inside the aircraft).
    There were noodles in the soup (inside the soup, not beside)
    It was a lovely day in summer.
    Santa Clause was sitting in his sleigh.
    The articles were found in a ditch by the side of the road.

  4. Use into to denote entry to an interior (the act or motion).

    He walked into the house.
    She dropped two olives into her martini.
    Sally reached into her handbag.
    They strolled into the park.
    The roots of the tree extended deep into the soil.
    He popped a pill into his mouth.
    The cat jumped into the box.

  5. Use onto to denote motion ending on top of.

    The dog jumped onto the bed.
    He rolled over onto his stomach.
    She sprinkled icing sugar onto the newly baked cake.
    She poured the meat sauce onto the spaghetti.
    They stepped onto the roof.
    He threw the football onto the balcony.
    The squirrel jumped onto the tree branch below.



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