Prepositions and prepositional phrases

In very general terms, prepositions express different kinds of relations between entities. Consider, for example, a common preposition like on, as in the following example:

(1) The books on the table are cheaper.

Here the preposition serves to relate two entities, a number of books and a table. The relation encoded by the preposition is a spatial one; one entity is located on the top surface of the other. It is easy to come up with other similar examples, where this concrete, spatial relation is encoded by on. A great many abstract uses of prepositions, may, in fact, be traced back to a concrete, spatial relation. Consider the following examples, where the prepositions are all used to encode temporal relations which can be derived from spatial ones):

(2) at 11 o'clock

(Time conceived of as a point; the concrete spatial meaning is found in: at his desk, at the bus stop, etc.)

(3) in the morning

(Time conceived of as an area; the concrete spatial meaning is found in: in the garden, in Japan, etc.)

(4) on Friday

(Time conceived of as a surface; the concrete spatial meaning is found in: on the table, on his head)

Other types of extensions of spatial meaning occur in the following examples:

(5) under the leadership of the professor

(Hierarchical position conceived of as vertical position)

(6) in love

(Emotion conceived of as a container. Note also the phrase fall out of love, with the same metaphorical construal.)

(7) through many different sources

(Instrument/Source conceived of as the traversal of three-dimensional space; the concrete spatial meaning is found in: through the tunnel)

Even though the use/meaning of prepositions can often be explained, it is much more difficult to predict what preposition is used in a given sense. Thus, the fact that we say on the pavement, rather than *in the pavement, whereas both in the street and on the street are possible (with some dialectal variation) cannot be predicted just based on our conception of spatial relations.

Similarly, the fact that in the margin refers to a concrete position on (!) a page, whereas on the margin refers to a metaphorical position in society has no straightforward logical explanation, and certainly cannot be predicted by general rule.

More on why it is difficult to say what prepositions mean (click to expand/contract)

Unfortunately, not all prepositions lend themselves as readily to a straightforward explanation of their meaning. Moreover, most prepositions have many different uses/meanings. The most common preposition in English, of, is a case in point. Consider, for example, one of its many uses, namely that of introducing a complement of an adjective, as in the following example:

(1) Miss Bennet felt ashamed of her family.

Here, it is not as obvious what the entities involved are, and what relation is encoded by the preposition. We may be able to construe the relation in this particular case as that between a sense of shame and the source of it, but this rather abstract relation does not generalise to very many other uses of of. Thus, a different relation is expressed if another adjective is used:

(2) The Bennet family was short of money.

Here, another relation is expressed, which we may perhaps characterise vaguely as 'with respect to'. In other words, one of the entities related by the preposition would be an abstract 'shortness' (i.e. insufficiency) and the other would be money. 

Other examples of the use of the preposition of show it to be able to encode a wide variety of relations, almost to the point where we can say that it can encode virtually any kind of relation that we can imagine. But this amounts to saying that the different relations depend more on the entities that are related than on the actual choice of preposition.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the choice of preposition is very often dependent on the immediate grammatical context. Thus a certain adjective, noun, or verb, may select, and typically be followed by, a certain preposition, without there being any obvious logic behind the selection, and without any easily identifiable relation being expressed. 

Have you searched for an expression with a preposition in it?

If you have come to this page because you used the AWELU search engine to search for a certain expression in English or Swedish with a preposition in it, it is likely that your expression is to be found in the list of sentences that you will get to if you click on A Swedish perspective: On the use of prepositions below. When you have done that, please use your browser's search function to find the expression that you are looking for.

A Swedish perspective: On the use of prepositions (click to expand/contract)

To use the right preposition in another language than one's own is notoriously difficult. Basically, we have to learn which preposition to use when, not the way we learn grammatical rules, but more the way we learn other vocabulary items.This is true whether you are, say, a Swede learning English, or, say, an Englishman learning Swedish.

We tend to think that English and Swedish have pairs of prepositions that correspond to each other, such as in and i, on and , and under and under. It is true that when we have an i in Swedish, there is often an in in English, but since there are so many cases when another preposition than the expected one should be used in English, we will make far too many mistakes if we always use the prepositions that our Swedish intuitions tell us are correct. Instead, we should learn as many idiomatic English expressions containing prepositions as possible.

Below, you will find two hundred sentences, most of which are authentic sentences written by students and staff at Oxford University ( Each sentence contains a highlighted prepositional construction that could cause difficulties for a Swede writing in English.

Below each example, there is a Swedish translation within square brackets, in some cases along with some additional comments. The list is ordered alphabetically based on the highlighted English expressions.  

It is of course possible to go through the entire list in order to improve one's English, since you do not only get the prepositional expressions, but also many nice examples of authentic, academic English. We imagine, however, that this list of sentences containing prepositions will rather be used as a resource when writers feel uncertain regarding which preposition is actually the right one to use in a certain situation.

If you have come to this page because you used the AWELU serach engine to search for a certain expression in English or Swedish with a preposition in it, it probably means that your expression is to be found in the list of sentences below. Please use your browser's search function to find the expression that you are looking for.

Examples of correct preposition usage, with comments

(1) In the practical examination of clinical assessment skills, (PACES), Oxford graduates performed significantly above average.

[Swedish: över genomsnittet]


(2) This resource has the potential to find leads against both bioterror and disease agents in a fraction of the time science is accustomed to.

(3) Some students used to taking several weeks perfecting an essay can also find it challenging to hand in work written so quickly.

[Swedish: van vid]


 (4) Farmers in Africa are helping to identify alternative farming practices which will help them adapt to climate change.

[Swedish: anpassa sig efter (Swedish anpassa sig till has a similar meaning in many contexts). We should note too that the Swedish constructions anpassa sig efter and anpassa sig till are reflexive (i.e. they contain reflexive pronouns, such as sig, while no such reflexive pronoun is present in the English adapt to).] 


(5) The great advantage of choosing to do a thesis on modern British history is the immense volume and variety of sources.

(6) A big advantage with this framework is that a great deal is already known about FOL and its various sub-languages.

[Swedish: fördel med]


(7) Advice on childcare is available from the Childcare Officer or on the Childcare website where full details of University nursery and childminding provision, advice on staff and student funding, and application forms are available.

[Swedish: råd om. Please note that this expression (advice on something) is very often used in headings in information material, for instance on the Internet.]


(8) If you would rather your details didn't appear online, you can advertise for an exchange on neighbourhood housing office noticeboards.

[Swedish: annonsera efter. The same preposition, for, is used with other verbs in several semantically similar expressions, such as search for, look for, and ask for.] 


(9) One thing most commentators seem to agree on is the need to re-engage citizens in the everyday practices of environmental management.

 [Swedish: vara/komma överens om]


(10) I have read and understood the Worcester College Acceptable Use Policy and Contract and agree to abide by its terms and conditions.

[Swedish: gå med på]


(11) If you have any serious food allergies, particularly if you are allergic to nuts or nut traces, please be as specific as you can.

[Swedish: allergisk mot]


(12) We are anxious for feedback.

[Swedish: angelägen om]


(13) Apart from its ability to impart a sweet taste and provide energy that is rapidly available to the brain, sugar is mainly a texturing agent.

(14) Apart from twice or thrice-weekly exercise sessions, they are not even allowed to move around their cells but must remain seated, the group says.

[The examples illustrate that apart from can be used in the same ways as both besides and except (for). However, it is the second (negative/subtractional) use that is more frequent.]


(15) Details of how to apply for entry in 2012 will be published here in January 2011.

[Swedish: ansöka om]


(16) I know that she would not approve of how we do experiments now.

[Swedish: gilla; godkänna]


(17) Sometimes we are faced with a choice where the alternatives realize such different values that it is impossible to weigh them against each other precisely.

[Swedish: stå inför]


(18) The one thing that a university course does teach everyone is how to think - or, at least, how to analyse, assess, make a judgement, arrive at a conclusion.

[Swedish: komma fram till. Similarly, arrive at a decision; arrive at an agreement]


(19) They arrived in Cape Town the day before Christmas.

[We use arrive in or arrive at (See the discussion of examples X and Y for which one of them to use.), not arrive to (cf. Swedish anlända till.]


(20) She works as a professor

[She is a professor. cf. She works like a professor below.]


(21) The most important thing to do if you are experiencing problems, particularly if they are affecting your work, is to ask for help.

[Swedish: be om]


(22) It requires about 15 hours/week when studying at a distance and is full-time for one 5-week and another 4-week residential session in Oxford.

[Swedish: på distans/på avstånd]


(23) The University would then commit to buying the electricity from the turbine over a sustained period of time, guaranteeing renewable energy at a good price.

[Swedish: till ett bra pris]


(24) It's like looking for a needle in a haystack, while you're on a train going at 100 miles an hour.

[Swedish: i 160 km i timmen]


(25) An overall assessment of all candidates is made at a meeting of all Psychology Tutors in the Department of Experimental Psychology.

[Swedish: på ett möte]


(26) Students should be advised at an early stage to give consideration to matters of format and style in relation to the University's requirement for electronic thesis submission.

[Swedish: på ett tidigt stadium]


(27) It will still be necessary for the results to be reviewed by the Store Supervisor, Administrator, and ultimately by the Head of Department, if material, in the light of any special circumstances which cannot be anticipated in the formulae, such as slow moving items that still sell at a profit, for example jewellery and pottery sold in trading departments.

(28) The current owner is shown in the light blue box (pink if they are willing to sell at a loss).

[Swedish: med vinst and med förlust]


(29) In this respect, if not in others, it bears a certain similarity to the kind of self-defining choice favoured by at any rate some brands of Existentialism.

[Swedish: i vilket fall som helst]


(30) You may be interviewed by two or more tutors at a time.

[Swedish: i taget]


(31) The main author of this article is now at Lund.

[The actual size of the city of Lund is irrelevant here, since we are concerned with the university of Lund.]


(32) At present there are seventeen members of academic staff with a wide variety of research interests.

[Swedish: för närvarande]


(33) One of these, chosen at random, has its identity reversed (B becomes A or vice versa).

[Swedish: slumpvis, or sometimes på måfå.


(34) Sheila is at school while her parents are at work.

[Please note that no definite article is used before school or work here. Also note the subtle difference between at school and in school, where at school normally puts the focus on the place where someone is, while in school normally rather emphasizes the fact that the person in question is a pupil/student, that is, focus is not on the location, but on the activity.


(35) William Shakespeare was born at Stratford

[Stratford-upon-Avon is a small town. Note, though, that in American English in is used with small places as well, and when we talk about the village or small town that we are currently in, in is used in all major varieties of English.]


(36) You should be committed to high standards of customer care, attentive to detail, self-motivated, conscientious and of smart appearance.

[Swedish: uppmärksam på]


(37) The Polish subsidiary degree course proper starts at the beginning of the second year.

[Swedish: i början av. The preposition that often causes difficulties here is at. Many Swedish speakers use in instead, but this is a mistake. Similarly: at the end of]


(38) We would like to know why you wish to study at this level, and why you believe this particular course is appropriate to your needs and interests.

(39) This dimension has led to the EU’s European Spatial Development Perspective, which, although not binding on member states, lays down the basis for future regional co-operation on this level, explicitly combining regions of different member states.

 [Swedish: på den här nivån. In English, at is clearly the preferred preposition here, except when we talk about the levels of a building, so we suggest you use at this level, unless you have specific reasons not to do so.]


(40) Meanwhile Britain was at war with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the call had gone out for men to join the army

[Swedish: i krig med]


(41) Please note that sending credit card details through email is done so at your own risk.

[Swedish: på egen risk]


(42) The overconsumption of alcohol can damage health, both in the short term and long term, and all students should be aware of the medically recommended maximum levels of consumption.

[Swedsih: medveten om. We can also use conscious of in English]


(43) Normally, nobody should be appointed as supervisor if it is known at the time of the appointment that he or she will not be in post at the time the student is due to complete the programme in question.

[Swedish: bli utmämnd till. Please note that this expression can also be used without a preposition, e.g. be appointed chairman.]


(44) This equality can only be equal to zero for arbitrary values of if the factors multiplying the sine and cosine arc individually equal to zero.

(45) However, in higher visual areas, such as inferotemporal cortex, the neuronal responses appear to correspond to perception.

[Swedish: motsvara, i.e. no preposition]


(46) Candidates will be expected to be familiar with the development of contemporary linguistic theory, both synchronic and historical, and be able to discuss problems and issues in areas includingsemantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, language acquisition and language change.

[Swedish: känna till/vara förtrogen med]


(47) We begin by studying database design, covering the entity relationship model.

[Swedish: börja med. Note that the preposition (by) cannot be immediately followed by an infinitive in English, so studying is used, instead of (to) study. Finish and start also take the preposition by.]


(48) Vaccines that rely upon subunit antigens or killed microorganisms may be lacking in immunogenicity.

[Swedish: brista i]


(49) Even if you are likely to be late for the party, please turn up.

[Swedish: komma (för) sent till]


(50) Anyone who wants a concise, clear, and scientific explanation of why anyone would believe in God should pick up Barrett's book.

(51) We believe in education as a means to prevent offending.

[Swedish: tro på]


(52) Therefore all members of department are obliged to not destroy files and data which might be of use.

[Swedish: vara till nytta; vara användbar]


(53) When it comes to working with clients, there are many things you should be doing besides just asking for money.

[Besides means 'in addition to', corresponding to Swedish förutom. It is used for addition.]


(54) Some of the topics included within it border on other fields of study.

[Swedish: gränsa till]


(55) By agreement with the publisher, this book is accessible by the search feature, but cannot be browsed.

[Swedish: enligt överenskommelse]



(56) By 11 o'clock she had already read four papers

['up to a certain time']


(57) Prices have risen by five percent.

[By is preposition corresponding to Swedish med when we talk about the degree of rise or fall of something.]


(58) You have to have handed it in by four o'clock.

[i.e. 'no later than four o'clock']


(59) Try to prepare your answers beforehand, for example on a print-out of the form or by hand.

[Swedish: för hand]


(60) It was also by means of cell fusion that Harris and Goss devised the first systematic method for determining the order of genes along the human chromosome.

[Swedish: med hjälp av]


(61) It has initiated and funded a number of projects that are pioneering by nature, strategic in impact and significant in money terms.

[Swedish: till naturen]


(62) My group is interested in understanding the assembly and function of membrane-proteins using techniques that are capable of observing individual molecules.

[Swedish: kapabel till]


(63) Children whose spoken language lags behind that of their peers are a cause for concern, as language is such a fundamental part of human social interaction.

[Swedish: anledning till. Similarly, reason for]


(64) Drugs are another common cause of change in the heart rate and most anaesthetic drugs can do this.

[Swedish: orsak till]


(65) If you are paying, please send a cheque for the full amount together with your registration form to the address below.

 [Swedish: check på]


(66) Chief constables are disturbed by the idea and cling to the hope that the government will back down.

[Swedish: klamra sig fast vid]


(67) The admissions procedures common to all colleges are explained in detail in the University of Oxford Admissions website.

[Swedish: gemensamma för. Also note the prepositions in the expressions in detail and in the University of Oxford Admissions website.]


(68) An outstanding contribution to teaching could compensate for a lesser contribution to high-level research.

[Swedish: kompensera, i.e. often no preposition used.]


(69) Any member of staff may use the grievance procedure to complain about discriminatory conduct.

[Swedish: klaga över]


(70) You should not use financial incentives to make informants consent to interviews, but you may decide that a small remuneration or gifts in kind would be appropriate depending on the circumstances.

[Swedish: samtycka till]


 (71) Because he believed in the importance of ideas, he was prepared to change his own if others could convince him of their inadequacy.

[Swedish: övertyga (honom) om]


(72) As the Handbook says, students should count on an average of about 8 hours work a day.

[Swedish: räkna med]


(73) Rosaldo has been critical of the ways some historians equate oral testimony with archival records that can be stored for eventual use.

[Swedish: kritisk till]


(74) It is undoubtedly true that criticism of the state of Israel can sometimes spill into anti-Semitism or be used as a cover to attack Jews.

[Swedish: kritik mot]


(75) In radiation oncology it is important to kill tumour cells but minimise damage to normal tissue.

[Swedish: skador på]


(76) Do mini-plans; find questions that deal with your topic which you would never choose to answer and challenge yourself to come up with a plan.

[Swedish: handlar om. Please note that deal with is also used with the meaning 'ta hand om'; 'ta sig an' 'syssla med', etc., as in The IT team then deal with the tickets and monitor the progress using the RT request tracking system.]


(77) When you decide on a password, make sure it can't be guessed.

[Swedish: besluta/bestämma sig för något]


(78) Rejecting certain traditional, in effect medieval assumptions of just war theory and advancing a liberal outlook, he argues that every single individual is a legitimate authority and has, under certain circumstances, the right to declare war on others or the state.

[Swedish: förklara krig mot]


(79) The College is delighted at this recognition of his outstanding work.

[Swedish: förtjust över]


(80) The report also raises the worrying issue that additional demand for oil could be met by non-conventional methods, such as the extraction of oil from Canada’s tar sands.

[Swedish: efterfrågan på]


(81) It is now widely recognised that employer demand for skills in Britain is quite low by comparison with several other industrialised nations, reflecting the fact that a large proportion of British enterprises have adopted relatively low value-added product (or service) strategies.

[Swedish: krav på]


(82) The term of every purchased life annuity is dependent on the duration of human life by definition, see IPTM4220.

[Swedish: beroende av. You can also use dependent upon.]


(83) They will not authorise the re-marking of papers just because a candidate or College is disappointed with the notified results.

(84) Early on, I was disappointed in the lack of career progression.

[Swedish: besviken på]


(85) The Race Relations Act 1976 makes it unlawful for a prospective employer to discriminate against an applicant for employment on racial grounds.

[Swedish: diskriminera, i.e. no preposition]


(86) It is dangerous to try to dispose of benzene by washing it down a sink. 

[Swedish: göra sig av med]


(87) This is commonly seen in hyperventilation due to anxiety states.

[Swedish: på grund av]


(88) You can block any Facebook user except Mark Zuckerberg.

[Except (and except for) is used for subtraction, just like the Swedish prepositions and prepositional expressions utom, förutom, and med undantag av. By the way, please be careful not to get except and accept mixed up.]


(89) An exception to payment by instalment may be made if the claimant can prove a pressing need for a lump sum, eg to prevent the cut off of a utility.

[Swedish: undantag från]


(90) It's not enough to have an explanation of the beliefs on the one hand, and an explanation of the mathematical facts on the other hand

[Swedish: förklaring till]


(91) These students will typically have already completed substantial graduate work in philosophy, at least equivalent to that required for the BPhil.

(92) It is designed to provide training in economics at the graduate level, comparable to the first two years of the PhD programme in the best US universities.

(93) Low fitness was comparable with diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and smoking as a predictor of mortality.

[Swedish: likvärdig med]


(94) Even then, vinyl would take much longer to fall into oblivion than 78s did when vinyl recordings first appeared.

[Swedish: falla i glömska]


(95) Such criticisms are familiar to all of us working in the field, but do seem to me to be nonsense.

[Swedish: bekant/bekanta för]


(96) On what grounds did Newton find fault with Descartes's mechanical world-view?

[Swedish: hitta fel hos]


(97) At this point in the argument, the first hearing of the petition had to be adjourned, for lack of time.

[Swedish: av tidsbrist]


(98) In a few exceptional cases, a business might need to keep running a dual system for some reason.

[Swedish: av någon anledning]


(99) He has been a senior lecturer for two years.

[We use for instead of since when we mean 'over/during a certain period of time', rather than 'from a certain point of time'. Please note that we have to use the present perfect, i.e. has been (and not the simple present, is, as we sometimes do in Swedish) in connection with such a temporal expression containing for or since.]


(100) If by necessity you miss a lecture, get hold of the lecture notes from somebody else and work through them.

[Swedish: få tag i]


(101) People think of themselves as mostly math or verbal persons, but rarely both – even though individuals who are good at one also tend to be good at the other (see Marsh, 1986).

[Swedish: bra på]


(102) Nor could it sue in respect of a charge of corruption, for a corporation cannot be guilty of corruption, although the individuals composing it may.

[Swedish: skyldig till]


(103) People do not have confidence in these institutions; when cases are sent there it takes a long time for them to be resolved.

[Swedish: ha förtroende för. Please note that the expression have trust in is sometimes used instead.]


(104) She believes her headscarf allows her to say things that others might hesitate over for fear of being labelled politically incorrect.

[Swedish: tveka inför. Please also note the useful construction for fear of being...]


(105) This attitude must change, as the best way to extinguish extremist arguments is to deal with them out in the open, not just sweep them under the carpet and hope for the best.

[Swedish: hoppas på det bästa]


(106) Explain the Dream Argument to someone who is intelligent, but utterly ignorant of philosophy.

[Swedish: okunnig om]


(107) Primary alcohols can be oxidized to aldehydes, and secondary alcohols to ketones, but tertiary alcohols are immune to further oxidation short of destruction.

(108) Cross-racial and cross-cultural communications can be fraught with difficulty, and there is no reason to assume that the medical arena is immune from the conflicts of society.

[Swedish: immun mot]


(109) In a year or two, this will no longer be an issue.

[i.e. 'after a certain period of time'. Swedish uses om.]


(110) Use a typewriter, or write very clearly in capital letters.

[Swedish: med stora bokstäver]


(111) In comparison to the work in human populations, crosses between inbred rodent strains have proved to be a powerful and reliable method to map QTLs.

(112) Research into dementia and stroke were found to be severely underfunded in comparison with cancer and CHD.

[Swedish: i jämförelse med/jämfört med]


(113) The legislation provides individuals with rights in connection with personal data held about them.

(114) They also have responsibility in connection to harassment and any community tensions that may arise.

 [Swedish: i anslutning till/i samband med]


(115) World population will increase by about another 3 billion people.

(116) This means that, for a given lung-volume and breathing rate, the amount of oxygen taken into the bloodstream would also decrease by 1% for every 70m.

[Swedish: öka med and minska med.]


(117) One of the benefits of being in an Honors section is that we have a smaller class size and more time available to discuss the material in class.

[Swedish: på lektionstid, på lektionen/föreläsningen, etc.]


(118) But the corrector failed to observe many obvious errors, and inserted many variants not otherwise recorded, most of them inferior to those normally adopted.

[Swedish: underlägsen, i.e. no preposition]


(119) We will contact all applicants by 18 December 2010 to inform them of the outcome of their application.

[Swedish: informera (dem) om. Similarly, assure somebody of 'försäkra någon om', remind somebody of 'påminna någon om', warn somebody of 'varna någon för', etc.]


(120) Matt Ridley and Richard Dawkins speculate about the nature of extraterrestrial life in front of an audience at the Centre for Life in Newcastle.

(121) The lectures took place in the auditorium of the Fuwai Hospital and Cardio-vascular Institute in central Beijing before an audience of more than 400 anaesthesiologists from Beijing and the surrounding area.

[Swedish: inför (en) publik]


(122) They now have their headquarters in Madrid.

[Madrid is a big city, so we use in, not at.]


(123) In my opinion, the competency arguments advanced on behalf of the accused are misconceived and must be rejected.

(124) If the delivery of public services is not, in my view, actually promoting racial equalities then inevitably it potentially can reinforce those inequalities.

[The Swedish expression corresponding to in my opinion and in my view is enligt min åsikt.]


(125) In 1969, Townes van Zandt released two albums.

[Swedish has no corresponding preposition here, but English has to have the preposition in.]


(126) In reply to the objection, it might be argued that hearing a melody just is hearing the current note whilst remembering the past note.

[Swedish: som svar på]


(127) Innovative yet increasingly aggressive forms of journalism are determined to hold politicians to account and seem intent on total transparency.

(128) Around 1400, two powers emerged intent upon exercising imperial control on an unprecedented scale.

[Swedish: inriktad/inställd på]


(129) I would be interested in borrowing ebooks. Are there any plans for having this facility in Northumberland libraries?

[Swedish: intresserad av (att)]


(130) It may be slower, but it means that, in the end, academics are committed to the decisions that are made.

[Swedish: till slut]


(131) In the picture, the red and green tags recognise different components of the cell's internal scaffolding.

[Swedish: på bilden]


(132) Titles of early papers, published in the 1940's, give some of the flavour of the scientific life in the PCL in those days.

 [Swedish: på den tiden]


(133) If you encounter difficulty in gathering the materials in time for the deadline, please contact the Graduate Admissions Office for advice.

[Swedish: i tid till]


(134) She is currently working on violence and the politics of the natural sublime in Wordsworth and Niall Griffiths.

[Swedish: hos Wordsworth]


(135) Judging from realistic simulations involving a sledge hammer and a common laboratory frog, we can assume it will be pretty bad.

[Swedish: att döma av]


(136) However, the lack of sunlight and vitamin D during pregnancy doesn't automatically cause MS.

[Swedish: brist på]


(137) She works like a professor.

[There is something about the way she works that is somehow professorlike, but she is not a professor, cf. She works as a professor above.]


(138) We wish our new graduates all the best and look forward to them returning to Oxford in the future.

[Swedish: se fram emot. Please note that the verb form returning must be used instead of return.]


(139) The International HapMap Consortium today published analyses of its second-generation map of human genetic variation, which contains three times more markers than the initial version unveiled in 2005.

[Swedish: karta över]


(140) Most parents did not object to their son or daughter marrying below this age and very little difficulty was experienced.

 [Swedish: protestera mot; sätta sig emot]


(141) Mistakes which I previously made unknowingly were now glaringly obvious to me.

[Swedish: uppenbar/uppenbart/uppenbara för]


(142) In some instances respondents made very negative remarks off the record, but expressed a wish that we do not record their opinion.

[Swedish: utanför protokollet; inofficiellt]


(143) Fathers spent between three and eight minutes a day on average on child care in 1975 (depending on their educational achievement), and this rose to between 32 and 36 minutes in 2000.

[Swedish: i genomsnitt]


(144) The clinic, run by the Occupational Health Service, provides health advice and immunisations for University staff travelling on business.

[Swedish: i affärer/i tjänsten]


(145) On closer inspection, many of the claimed advantages of the so-called community source model actually refer to general features of open source development.

(146) On closer examination, however, this account has two problematic features.

 [Swedish: vid närmare påseende]


(147) Sitting or standing for hours on end, bent over a microscope eyepiece is not an activity for which the body is well adapted.

[Swedish: i sträck]


(148) Oxford is an historic, pedestrian-friendly city which is best explored on foot.

[Swedish: till fots]


(149) I promise to notify the College, immediately on my arrival, of the name of two next-of-kin who may be contacted by the College in an emergency.

[Swedish: vid min ankomst]


(150) She is on the board of the Advertising Educational Foundation in New York and is the editor of Advertising & Society Review.

[Swedish: i styrelsen. The same preposition is used in English in expressions such as on the committee.]


(151) If conference speakers are not researchers at the University, it will be ncessary for someone with an Oxford login to submit items on their behalf.

[Swedish: för någons räkning, in this case, för deras räkning]


(152) The pigeonholes are on the left, inside the Porters' Lodge.

[Swedish: till vänster/på vänster sida]


(153) However, children may also be present on the premises for a number of other reasons not related to work.

[Swedish: i lokalen/i byggnaden, etc.]


(154) The following suggestions may help, when you encounter a situation where someone is on the verge of harming themselves or others.

[Swedish: på gränsen till]


(155) The Library is prepared to allow flexibility about the numbers of borrowings in some cases as long as the books are returned on time.

[Swedish: i tid; punktligt. Please note the difference between in time (for) and on time.]


(156) The Old Bodleian Library will be open to readers and visitors on Friday 26 November.

[Swedish: öppen/öppet/öppna för]


(157) So it is simply out of the question that other people's intuitions should play the same role in rationally guiding my reasoning as my own intuitions.

[Swedish: inte komma på fråga]


(158) The proportions of men and women who have been absent from work owing to sickness in the United Kingdom have remained fairly steady over the years.

[Swedish: på grund av. There are other English expressions with roughly the same meaning, including due to.]


(159) Why pay a visit to a dear friend when one can save valuable time and join a forum or a chat-room?

[Swedish: göra ett besök hos/göra ett besök i]


(160) Joe taught in an area of philosophy that was very popular with students, but which few philosophers in the University were able or willing to teach.

[Swedish: populär hos or populär bland]


(161) We found that the truism that humanities scholars prefer books to journals is an oversimplification at best; in fact, it may be downright wrong.

[Swedish: föredra X framför Y]


(162) Reader-friendliness will become a dominant pressure on us as we write, hoping to be read by other academics, equally busy, equally pressed for time.

[Swedish: (ha) ont om tid]


(163) He is also Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he co-founded Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society in 1996.

[Swedish: professor i. Please note the capital P in Professor. It may not be strictly obligatory, but it appears to be almost always used. Also note that even though the preposition in is sometimes used instead of of with professor, we suggest that you always use of, since of is much more frequently used by native English speakers and writers.]


(164) Ensure that you keep a copy of these backups in a different location to your computer to protect from fire, floods and theft.

[Swedish: skydda mot; skydda från]


(165) Sheldon was the leader of a strongly royalist College whose Fellows were to be put to the test by the events of the Civil War and the Commonwealth.

[Swedish: sätta på prov]


(166) Most living things move, react to stimuli, breathe, eat and excrete, grow, propagate, and eventually die.

[Swedish: reagera på]


(167) This can refer to both the direction and the magnitude of the field.

[Swedish: syfta på/referera till]


(168) You should see your mentor to reflect on what you have done and what you are about to do.

(169) The aim of the course is to enable students to critically reflect upon the basic principles and policies at the heart of competition law.

[Swedish: reflektera över]


(170) We propose a source of information for absolute depth estimation based on the whole scene structure that does not rely on specific objects.

(171) The efficient functioning of these systems is ensured by complex regulatory mechanisms which rely upon sensory information regarding the levels of both arterial oxygen and a key metabolite of aerobic respiration carbon dioxide (which forms carbonic acid).

[Swedish: bero på; vara beroende av]


(172) The large crystal in the centre is staurolite, a mineral rich in aluminium and iron.

[Swedish: rik på]


(173) In this method, a number of semi-independent "agents" co-operate to find the solution to a problem.

[Swedish: lösning på]


(174) The term 'open source' originated in the worlds of journalism and intelligence, and referred to a publicly available source of information.

[Swedish: källa till]


(175) To subscribe to an RSS feed of podcasts for your site, copy and paste the RSS feed URL into your podcatcher application.

[Swedish: prenumerera på]


(176) Should you wish to substitute this work for practical work you must do two things.

[In Swedish the order of the elements is reversed, so in Swedish we would instead say byta ut praktik mot detta arbete, or ersätta praktik med detta arbete. There is no idiomatic Swedish expression that corresponds exactly to the English one and which has the two elements in the same order as in the English construction.]


(177) There are no special A-level requirements, but mathematical aptitude is necessary to succeed in the course.

(178) I shall not today attempt to define 'complexity' and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so, but I know it when I see it.

[Swedish: lyckas med. Please note that the preposition (in) cannot be followed by an infinitive, so in the second sentence, doing is used instead of to do.]


(179) Terazosin was superior to placebo in improving flow rate and symptoms in men with BPH.

[Swedish: överlägsen, i.e. no preposition]


(180) Students may be surprised at how fast you are reading the sentences, but they will quickly keep pace.

(181) I was surprised by the presence of Traditional Chinese Medicine co-existing in the main hospital.

[Swedsih: överraskad över/av]


(182) The secularisation of Jewish culture at the end of the nineteenth century transformed Yiddish also into a symbol of Jewish nationalism and socialism.

[Swedish: symbol för]


(183) To understand speech, the listener must take into account context-induced effects to recover the intended message.

[Swedish: ta hänsyn till]


(184) When selecting the type of anaesthetic to be used, the anaesthetist must take into consideration his or her own experience and that of the surgeon, the condition of the patient, the degree of urgency and the availability of equipment and drugs.

[Swedish: ta med i beräkningen/ta i beaktande]


(185) I take pride in mentoring students of all ages, and I have been fortunate to have an impact on some wonderful and bright young people.

[Swedish: vara stolt över]


(186) The aim of this course is to introduce the quantum theory required to understand the microscopic properties of elementary particles.

 [Swedish: syftet med]


(187) The good thing about these observational studies is that they look at patients like ours.

[Swedish: Det som är bra med. Similary, the bad thing about, the only thing about, the strange thing about, etc.]


(188) As well as winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 2003, Professor Coetzee has won numerous other awards worldwide.

[Swedish: Nobelpriset i litteratur. Please note the spelling of Prize, the spelling of literature, and the fact that we can sometimes also see the the preposition in used instead of for. However, for is still generally considered to be the right preposition here.] 


(189) There is something strange/odd/peculiar/weird about the history of the interpretations of Machiavelli.

[Swedish: Det är något konstigt med...]


(190) The increasing number of tourist resorts and tourist activities pose the greatest threat to the islands' biodiversity.

[Swedish: hot mot]


(191) The course, aimed at Intermediate level students, will help students in real world situations travelling throughout the Hispanic world.

[Swedish: i hela]


(192) Systematic reviews of the research literature conclude time after time that there exists a strong and unambiguous relationship between social support and both physical and mental health and wellbeing.

[Swedish: gång på gång]


(193) To a certain degree this tutorial was seen as breaking new ground when it was launched in the teaching of Modern literature.

[Swedish: i viss grad. The expression to a certain extent, which corresponds to the Swedish i viss utsträckning, is very similar in most respects.]


(194) The course is to a large extent based upon departmental teaching in the various laboratories.

[Swedish: i stor utsträckning]


(195) It is therefore essential to complete it to the best of your ability, as it forms the first impression of your application

[The Swedish expression corresponding closest to to the best of one's ability is efter bästa förmåga, but så bra man kan and så gott man kan are also possible translations.]


 (196) In the examination for this Paper you will be asked to translate into English a short passage from one of the above texts.

[Swedish: översätta till]


 (197) What is shown in the video can be considered typical of the system's performance.

[Swedish: typiskt för]


(198) We receive a lot of queries about the same topics, so we have created the pages listed below to provide information which may be useful to your organisation.

[Swedish: användbar för]

(199) While we wait for the results of the trial, people still want to know what evidence we have.

[Swedish: väntar på. Please note that wait on has a different meaning, namely 'passa upp på', i.e. what waiters do.]


(200) With regard to late entries to examinations and alterations of options, candidates must apply for permission through the Academic Office.

[Swedish: i fråga om. Other semantically similar expressions exist in both languages.]

Prepositional phrases

Prepositions act as heads of prepositional phrases. They typically occur together with noun phrases, which function as complements of the preposition. Thus, the examples above can all be analysed using the following grid:




the table


the morning



Noun phrases are by far the most common form of prepositional complement in English. However, prepositional complements may also take other forms.




Form of the complement


writing children's books

(an ing-clause)


why I wrote this book

(a wh-clause)


behind his desk

(a prepositional phrase)



(an adverb phrase)

It should be noted that neither that-clauses nor declarative to-infinitival clauses can function as complements of prepositions in English. Thus the following two examples are ungrammatical:

(1) *You can rely on (that) Mary will not miss the meeting.

(2) *We talked about to go to the Zoo.

A Swedish perspective: Preposition + infinitive (click to expand/contract)

Swedish prepositions take infinitival complements freely, whereas English prepositions do not. Instead, clausal complements of prepositions in English require a verb in the ing-form. As a result, Swedish learners often encounter difficulties, especially with with the preposition to, as in the following examples:

(1a) Jag ska begränsa mig till att diskutera konjunktioner.

(1b) I will confine/restrict myself to discussing conjunctions.

(NOT: *I will confine/restrict myself to discuss conjunctions.)

The following list contains a number of cases where Swedish has the infinitive, but English has the preposition to followed by an ing-clause.

(2a) Bill protesterade mot att Lisa blev vald till språkrör.

(2b) Bill objected to Lisa being elected spokesperson.

(3a) De ökade intäkterna bidrog till att företaget snabbt kom på fötter.

(3b) The increasing revenue contributed to the company quickly getting back on its feet.

(4a) Vi ser fram emot att träffa hennes släktingar.

(4b) We are looking forward to meeting her relatives.

(5a) Hur skulle du reagera på att bli övergiven på det sättet?

(5b) How would you react to being abandoned in that way?

(6a) Jag önskar han kunde hålla sig till att skriva barnböcker.

(6b) I wish he would stick to writing children’s books.

(7a) Olsson är inte särskilt snabb när det gäller att fatta beslut.

(7b) Olsson is not particularly fast when it comes to making decisions.

(8a) Kursen är inriktad på att förse studenterna med verktyg för deras framtida utveckling.

(8b) The course is geared to providing students with tools for their future development.

(9a) Bill anpassade sig aldrig riktigt till att arbeta med den nya utrustningen.

(9b) Bill never quite adjusted to working with the new equipment.

(10a) Efter flera års uppehåll återgick Jones till att skriva barnböcker.

(10b) After several years’ absence Jones returned to writing children’s books.

This contrast between the languages is also seen in complements of nouns and adjectives:

(11a) Det här nederlaget var mycket nära att fälla regeringen.

(11b) This defeat came very close to overthrowing the government.

(12a) Hans barndom är nyckeln till att förstå hans utveckling som konstnär.

(12b) His childhood is the key to understanding his development as an artist.

to as preposition or infinitive marker (click to expand/contract)

In English, to can be used both as an infinitive marker and as a preposition. When it is used as a preposition and takes a clausal complement, the complement is an ing-participial clause. When to is used as an infinitive marker it forms a unit with a following verb in the infinitive. The following pair illustrates the difference.

(1) Bill is used to running a mile every morning. (to is a preposition)

(2) Bill used to run a mile every morning. (to is an infinitive marker)

It is possible to test whether to is used as a preposition or not. Given that the vast majority of prepositions take noun phrase complements, the simplest test is to check whether to can be followed by a noun phrase. If it can, it is a preposition, and if it cannot it is an infinitive marker. For example, using the two sentences above, we can ascertain that to is a preposition in the first case but not in the second.

(3) Bill is used to cats. (to accepts an NP as complement and is therefore a preposition)

(4) *Bill used to cats. (to does NOT accept an NP as complement and is therefore an infinitive marker)

A Swedish perspective: The stranding of prepositions (click to expand/contract)

To strand a preposition is to put the preposition at the end of a clause, instead of before the (noun phrase) complement with which it forms a prepositional phrase. So, if the previous sentence had instead ended as in (i), the preposition with would have been stranded:

(1) instead of before the (noun phrase) complement which it forms a prepositional phrase with.

The preposition with in (1) is at the end of a clause at the end of the sentence. Its complement precedes it. Hence, the proposition is stranded. However, this does not at all mean that (1) is ungrammatical. To strand prepositions is practically always possible (even though prescriptive grammarians have tried to get rid of stranded prepositions), but this does not mean that we should always do it.

Put simply, to what extent we allow ourselves to strand propositions is a matter of style and formality in both English and Swedish. If you want to speak and write in an everyday fashion, do not be afraid of stranding your prepositions. You are likely to have a feeling for when stranding a preposition is the natural choice in casual English or Swedish.

However, if you want to write a really formal document, stranded prepositions will automatically make your text appear less formal. This means that you have to make up your mind with regard to which type of writer you want to be and what type of impression you want your text (and you) to make on its readers.

Some academics are traditional and want to be as formal as possible when they write proper academic texts, while others prefer to use a language which is closer to the language they would use in a spoken lecture or talk on the subject in question. AWELU cannot decide which type of author you want to be; we can only inform you about the choices that you have and the effects that these choices will have on your readers.

When it comes to differences between Swedish and English, it should be pointed out that if you never strand your prepositions in Swedish, your text will come across as extremely formal. In English, however, you can avoid stranding all your prepositions without giving such an extremely formal impression. Of course your text will be more formal than if you had actually stranded some prepositions, but people who expect a formal text will not react to your lack of stranded prepositions, as it were.

In conclusion, when writing in English, do not strand your prepositions as often as you would have done in Swedish. An academic text in English typically has fewer stranded prepositions than an academic text in Swedish. Generally speaking, you have to make up your mind whether you want to be a formal writer who never strands his prepositions, or a slightly less formal writer who strands his prepositions when this appears to be the most natural choice, according to his linguistic intuitions. 

A Swedish perspective: Phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs (click to expand/contract)

A prepositional verb is a combination of a verb and a preposition which together form a semantic unit, for instance call on. A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and an adverb-like particle, for instance call off.

Most, if not all, phrasal and prepositional verbs are too informal to be used in formal academic writing. In fact, phrasal and prepositional verbs normally have one-word counterparts that should rather be used in academic writing.

Instead of call on, we can use the less informal visit, and instead of call off, there is cancel. Generally speaking, it is much easier to understand what the meaning of a prepositional verb means than it is to understand the meaning of a phrasal verb, even if you know the meaning of the words that it consists of.

There are many dictionaries on the internet where phrasal and prepositional verbs are listed and explained. Even though we should not normally use phrasal and prepositional verbs in our academic writing, it is very useful to know their meanings, since others may use them, and you may want to use them in less formal contexts, such as, for instance, e-mails. The following link may be of great use:

As we can see when we look at a phrasal verb such as call off and a prepositional verb such as call on, it is often not enough just to look at a phrasal or prepositional verb in isolation to determine if it is a phrasal or a prepositional verb. In the case of the pair call on and call off, we have the same verb and the following words (on and off) can both be analysed as either an adverb or a preposition, depending on the context, as the following examples illustrate:

(1) He is on the table. (on is a preposition)

(2) The deal is on. (on is an adverb)

(3) He is off the hook. (off is a preposition)

(4) This deal is off. (off is an adverb)

This means that there must be other ways of determining whether something is a prepositional verb, if the terminological distinction is to make any sense at all. There are such ways, as will now be shown.

To begin with, there is a difference in stress patterns. While the preposition in a prepositional verb is not stressed, the adverb-like particle in a phrasal verb receives stress. Please note that the verbs themselves are normally stressed in both cases, since they belong to the category of lexical words.

Secondly, prepositions in prepositional verbs always have to precede their complements, that is, the noun phrase or gerund (ing-form of the verb) that it is related to. This means that we have to use (5) instead of (6):

(5) He called on his uncle.

(6) *He called his uncle on.

The adverb-like particle in a phrasal verb, on the other hand, may either precede or follow its complement/object, in case it has one. Contrary to prepositional verbs, phrasal verbs may be intransitive, that is, they may lack an object. So, since the adverb-like particle may either precede or follow the complement/object, both (7) and (8) are quite acceptable:

(7) The union called off the strike.

(8) The union called the strike off.

It must also be noted that if the complement/object happens to be in the form of a pronoun, the pronoun must precede the adverb-like particle, that is, (9) is grammatical, while (10) is not:

(9) The union called it off.

(10) *The union called off it.

A modifying adverbial cannot stand between the verb and the adverb-like particle of a transitive phrasal verb (11), but it can stand between the verb and the preposition of a prepositional verb (12).

(11) *The union called immediately off the strike.

(12) They looked carefully at the old documents.

Please note that instead of (11), we would use (12), (13), (14), or (15):

(12) The union immediately called off the strike.

(13) The union called off the strike immediately.

(14) The union called the strike off immediately.

(15) The union immediately called the strike off.

If we use the rules just mentioned, in combination with the knowledge that the meaning of a prepositional verb is typically easier to understand than the meaning of a phrasal verb if you know the meaning of the two words in isolation, we will be able to determine if a multi-word verb is a prepositional verb or a phrasal verb, at least in those cases where the phrasal verb is transitive (that is, has an object).

From a Swedish point of view, it is important to realise that the rules for Swedish phrasal verbs are slightly different from the English ones. In Swedish, we cannot place the complement/object of a phrasal verb between the verb and the adverb-like particle, whether or not the complement is in the form of a preposition or a full noun phrase, that is, we cannot use (16) or (17) in Swedish:

(16) *Facket blåste strejken av.

(17) *Facket blåste den av.

Instead we have to use (18) or (19):

(18) Facket blåste av strejken.

(19) Facket blåste av den.

Finally, it ought to be mentioned that there are also phrasal prepositional verbs. These are combinations of a verb, an adverb-like particle, and a preposition. Examples include be down with, look forward to, run out of, put up with, keep up with, and look out of. These behave like prepositional verbs, in the sense that their objects/complements always have to follow the preposition. This is illustrated in the following examples:

(20) Unfortunately, we ran out of petrol.

(21) *Unfortunately, we ran out petrol of.

(22) *Unfortunately, we ran petrol out of.

Neither is it possible to place the [preposition + NP] before the adverb-like particle:

(23) *Unfortunately, we ran of pertrol out.

The situation is the same in Swedish for such phrasal prepositional verbs, as is illustrated in examples (24) to (27):

(24) Vi slutade upp med detta.

(25) *Vi slutade med detta upp.

(26) *Vi detta slutade upp med

(27) *Vi med detta slutade upp.

Please note that (26) and (27) would have been ungrammatical anyway in Swedish, since Swedish is a verb second language, which wants to have the finite verb in second position in declarative main clauses (by which we understand, roughly, sentences that are typically used to make statements). You can read more about verb second and word order in Swedish and English if you follow this link: