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Prepositions cannot be distinguished by any formal features. A list of prepositions will illustrate this point:

across, after, at, before, by, during, from, in, into, of, on, to, under, with, without

We can, say, however, that prepositions typically come before a noun:

across town
after class
at home
before Tuesday
by Shakespeare
for lunch
in London
on fire
to school
with pleasure

The noun does not necessarily come immediately after the preposition, however, since determiners and adjectives can intervene:

after the storm
on white horses
under the old regime

Whether or not there are any intervening determiners or adjectives, prepositions are almost always followed by a noun. In fact, this is so typical of prepositions that if they are not followed by a noun, we call them “stranded” prepositions:

Preposition Stranded Preposition
John talked about the new film This is the film John talked about

Prepositions are invariable in their form, that is, they do not take any inflections.

Complex Prepositions

The prepositions which we have looked at so far have all consisted of a single word, such as in, of, at, and to. We refer to these as SIMPLE PREPOSITIONS.

COMPLEX PREPOSITIONS consist of two- or three-word combinations acting as a single unit. Here are some examples:

according to
along with
apart from
because of
contrary to
due to
except for
instead of
prior to
regardless of

Like simple prepositions, these two-word combinations come before a noun:

according to Shakespeare
contrary to my advice
due to illness

Three-word combinations often have the following pattern:

Simple Preposition + Noun + Simple Preposition 

We can see this pattern in the following examples:

in aid of
on behalf of 
in front of
in accordance with
in line with
in line with
in relation to
with reference to
with respect to
by means of

Again, these combinations come before a noun:

in aid of charity
in front of the window
in line with inflation

Marginal Prepositions

A number of prepositions have affinities with other word classes. In particular, some prepositions are verbal in form:

Following his resignation, the minister moved to the country
I am writing to you regarding your overdraft
The whole team was there, including John

We refer to these as MARGINAL PREPOSITIONS. Other marginal prepositions include:

concerning, considering, excluding, given, granted, pending

Non-verbal marginal prepositions include worth (it’s worth ten pounds) and minus (ten minus two is eight).

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