Finding the Right Tools to Build an Understanding of Prepositions

3269784239_4254e1cc22_qIt never fails. Every time I start a new grammar topic on YouTube, I am surprised by how much I don’t know. I think it’s the idea of committing to an explanation and sending it out to thousands of learners that makes me dig and dig until I arrive at a feeling of certainty. I also start asking my own questions and consider the possible answers. I almost never give brief explanations. They tend to be very thorough. I know there will be learners with just as many questions, and I try to anticipate them. For example, it’s simply not enough to teach that prepositions come before nouns or pronouns. Since my introduction is intended for upper level students, I found myself explaining that objects can be nouns, noun phrases, noun clauses, gerunds, gerund phrases, and a few different kinds of pronouns.

I also began to discuss the various positions prepositional phrases can appear in and the other parts of speech these phrases can modify. I’ll need to address this more in subsequent lessons, but I see it as a work in progress. Slowly I hope to build a more solid understanding of how and why we use prepositions. With this end in mind, I created a reading-based activity to increase students’ awareness of what prepositional phrases look like, where we can find them in a sentence, and what kind of questions they can answer. Please see my About Prepositions_handout.


Photo credit:

“Tools” by zzpza. Retreived from the Creative Commons on Flickr.


11 Comments Add yours

  1. The best you can explain someone is my video, different tutorials on youtube help us learn a lot of things.

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog, Dominic.

  2. Ron Olson says:


    My name is Ron Olson and I work at the Xilin Asian Community Center in Naperville, Illinois. It is an Adult Day Care Center for elderly Chinese people and the State of Illinois subsidizes it.

    I was just appointed to teach a Beginner’s English class at the Xilin (pronounced “She-lin”) Asian Community Center and I don’t know what on earth I would have done if I hadn’t discovered your YouTube channel and videos. I have no real experience in teaching English; however, I have taught the elderly Chinese folks coming here a bit about American dancing and also about the American Civil War.

    My plan is to simply play eight (8) or ten (10) of your Beginner’s English videos, in proper sequence, during each 90-minute class. At the end of each video I will PAUSE and review what you said or add a few of my own comments. I am not quite sure just what I will do once we get through the sixty-five (65) videos, and I would appreciate any suggestions you may have as to how to “learn English with Jennifer” AFTER my first six (6) to eight (8) classes.

    For some reason, the other two English teachers here refuse to use videos and write everything on the blackboard. I am going to start a new practice and, hopefully, me and you will have more success ! ! !


    1. Wishing you the best of luck, Ron.
      I know you got my private message. Feel free to stay in touch!

  3. This Activity is useful… but the students understand when the see it and use it as part of the play a game. I get them to see – and then we play a -hide something and find something game in the class. Thanks Jennifer for the exercise… i will use it. regards. Ashish

    1. Hello Ashish. I really enjoy Eli Hinkel’s work. Thank you for noting her site.

  4. Reblogged this on Tricks4English BLOG and commented:
    Read this if you wish to get along better with your prepositions….

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