Prepositions are words such as: at, with, of, from, on, in, about, for etc. On the face of it you should not have difficulty using these once you have learnt that na stole is on the table, w budynku – in a building, rozmawiać o czymś – talk about something. However, it would be a mistake to assume that the English on is always expressed by the Polish na ,and in can always be conveyed as w. The thing is most English prepositions can have several different functions which do not necessarily overlap with their Polish counterparts. In practical terms that means that on some occasions an English preposition can have a consistent Polish equivalent ( e.g. in = w; from = z), whereas at other times we need to use another Polish preposition to express the same English word. Needless to say this inconsistency in the use of Polish and English prepositions inevitably results in a lot of confusion. Although I do not intend to dissipate all the possible doubts on the subject here, I would like to show some of the most typical examples of how English prepositions are used before or after certain words and expressions.
on time – at the time arranged, not before, not after
The 5.45 train started on time. (punktualnie)
in time – not late
Passengers should be in time for their train. (odpowiednio wcześnie)
At a time
At midnight, at five, at 4.35
At an age
At eighteen/at the age of eighteen (He got married at nineteen)
On a day/date
On Saturday, on 28 April
(!) But:at night, at Christmas, at Easter
we say: in the morning
(!) But: on the morning of the fifth (a specific date)
At the beginning/end – literally at the beginning /end
At the beginning of the film nothing happens.
In the beginning/end – at first/at last – in the early stages (it suggest that later on there was a change)
At first I disliked Bob, but in the end I got to love him.
Arrive in a town or country, at a village or other destinations
At home, at work, at the office, at school, at university, at an address, at a certain point e.g. at the bridge, at the crossroads, at the bus-stop
In a county, in a town, in a village, in a square, in a street, in a room, in a forest, in a wood, in a field, in a desert or any other place which has boundaries or is enclosed
However, a small area such as a square, a room, a field might be used with at when we mean ‚at’ this point’ rather than ‚inside’.
We can be in or at a building. In a building means inside only, whereas at a building may suggest inside or just outside.
At the sea/lake means ‚near/beside the sea’
At sea means ‚on a ship’.
Between vs. among
Between normally relates a person/thing to two other people/things, but it can also be used of more when we have a definite number in mind
Joanna was sitting between Andrew and his sister, Sandra.
Poland lies between Germany, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
Among relates a person/thing to more than two others; normally we have no definite number in mind.
Joanna was happy to be among her relatives again.
A village among the hills ?
With could have several uses.
He cut bread with a knife.
Don’t touch it with bare hands.
The hills were covered with snow.
I have no money with/on me.
I like the girl with red hair.
The boy with his feet on the desk made me furious.
The girl was blue with cold .
A lot of expressions require to be followed by a specific preposition .
Agree with (a person)
Agree on (a matter for decision) e.g. We finally agreed on the girl’s name.
Agree to (a suggestion) e.g. I could agree to your proposal if promise to keep it a secret.
Angry with/at a person for doing something e.g. I am angry with you for not telling me everything.
Angry about something e.g. Why are you so angry about it?
Apologize for e.g. Did he apologize for his behaviour last night?
Did he apologize to you for his behaviour last night?
Care about (consider important) e.g. I don’t care about your problems. I have my own.
Care for (like, love, look after) Nobody cares for me.
Would you care for a cup of tea?
Take care of (look after) e.g. Go home. I will take care of the children.
Congratulate on e.g. Congratulations on your new job!
Die of e.g. She died of breast-cancer last winter.
Difficulty with something e.g. I’m having difficulty with my English.
Difficulty in doing something e.g. You won’t have difficulty in getting to know people in Italy.
Dream of (think of, imagine)
Dream about (while asleep)
Who is that lady dressed in green?
Explain something to somebody e.g. Please could you explain this poem to me?
I have been ill with flu for the last week.
Derek insisted on paying for the meal.
Stop laughing at me.
Paul reminds me of myself when I was his age.
I don’t want to discuss this for many reasons.
I ran into Monica at Dworzec Centralny the other day. (met)
The frontier guards shoot at anyone trying to cross.
This is typical of George.
A lot of expressions are made up of preposition + noun.
A book by Graham Gordon
For a walk. run, swim, drive
In pen, pencil, ink e.g. Please fill in the form in ink.
In the rain, snow
In a loud voice, in whisper
In a suit, raincoat, skirt
On the radio/TV
On the phone e.g. Your sister is on the phone. She says it’s urgent.