TOEFL and IELTS Tips: Preposition Vs Adverb

Hi readers! It's been a while that I haven't posted anything on this blog. I am working on my second book while waiting for the first one to be published this year. Been busy for months and now I'm back! 😁

Today we will have a discussion on the use of Preposition and Adverb in English. Sometimes I myself find it intriguing to decide if a phrase is Prepositional Phrase or if it functions as an Adverb.

There is a common confusion related to the use of Adverb and Preposition. It is often difficult for us to differentiate Prepositional phrase or Adverb of time (or place) since they look pretty much the same. There are actually some differences between the two, although it's not that apparent.


Preposition + Noun, Noun Phrase, and Noun Clause

First of all, we have to remember that Preposition is always followed by a Noun, Noun Phrase, or Noun Clause (including Gerund that functions like a Noun). Take a look at these examples!

I just arrived from school, which can be explained as follows:

I (Subject) just (Adverb) arrived (Verb) from school (Prep+N - in this case it is referred to as Prepositional Phrase)

She was astonished by that smart guy, which can be explained as follows:

She (Subject) was (to be - as a linking Verb) astonished (Adjective that comes right after the linking Verb) by that smart guy (Prep+N Phrase, which is referred to as Prepositional Phrase)

I'm really thankful for what he's done to me, which can be explained as follows:

I (Subject) am (to be - as a linking Verb for the Adjective that follows) really (Adverb) thankful (Adjective that comes after linking Verb) for what he's done to me (Prep+N clause - also referred to as a Prepositional Phrase)

For some Indonesian learners, Preposition can be such a challenge since its meaning can change depending on what context it is used. For example:

The letter is written by Andy, "by" here means "oleh"

I always go to school by bus, "by" here means "dengan"

Put the trash by the postbox, "by" here means "di samping"

I will be there by the end of the year, "by" here means"ketika sudah sampai"

Preposition + Pronoun

Secondly, Preposition can also be followed by a Pronoun. Take a look at an example below!

The Professor was really impressed by her, which can be explained as follows:

The Professor (Subject) was (to be - as a linking Verb) really (Adverb) impressed (Adjective that follows the linking Verb) by her (Prep+Pronoun which is referred to as a Prepositional Phrase)

Preposition + Gerund

Furthermore, we also know that Preposition can be followed by Gerund. In fact, it can only followed by Gerund, so it's easy enough to remember. Take a look at this example!

I'm sorry for coming late, which can be explained as follows:

I (Subject) am (to be as a linking Verb) sorry (Adjective after the linking Verb) for coming late (Prep+Gerund, which is a Prepositional Phrase)

Verb Particle
Some Prepositions are usually combined with a Verb as a particle. You may be familiar with words like take off, put down, help with etc. Off, down, and with are particles that are often considered as perplexing. Here is why it happens:

First, the relationship between a Verb and a particle is sometimes not that straightforward. Like the word put up in I simply can't put up with her.

In some cases, it is even separated from the Verb, if there is a Noun or Pronoun between them, usually functions as an Object, like:

If there is anything that I can help you with, you let me know. Now, let's break it down:

If there is anything that I can help (this is the Verb) you (this is a Pronoun) with (this is the particle), you let me know.


Here are some more examples

Take off your shirt! vs You need to take it off

Never put off what you can do today - You should not put it off



Adverb is never followed by Noun or Pronoun. In fact, Adverb is usually followed by nothing (This poor fella never has a follower 😁). We also have to remember that there are three types Adverb, which are Adverb of Time, Adverb of Place, and Adverb of Manner.

Adverb of Place
Richard told me that he now lives abroad

The underlined word is the Adverb of Place of that sentence, and it can be seen that it is followed by nothing

Some of the commonly used Adverb of Place are:
Inside, outside, overseas, there, here, everywhere and so on and so forth

Adverb of Time
I just went to the bar yesterday
The underlined word is the Adverb of Time of that sentence, and it still follows by nothingness

Below are some other Adverb of Times:
Tomorrow, the day after yesterday, now, et cetera

Adverb of Manner
It's raining cat and dog, I guess we better drive more carefully

The underlined word is the Adverb of Manner for the Verb drive. The typical Adverb of Manner generally ends up with -ly ending like:

Carefully, steadily, ferociously, diligently, et cetera

However, there are also some examples of irregular Adverb of Manner like:

I run fast (not fastly)

I work hard (not hardly)

* Do not get confused between (1) I work hardly and (2) I hardly work. Hardly is an almost negative that works just fine in statement number (2), but makes no sense if we use it like in the statement number (1).

How Preposition and Adverb relate to the IELTS test?

IELTS questions often require a good mastery of very basic grammatical rule like Preposition. One Preposition can make a difference, since it will determine what kind of word that comes next. This word often becomes the one that you need for an answer. Take a look at an example below!

1. The market collapsed on ____________

If you were to be given a question like this , you must know that it will need a Noun after Preposition on that will together form a Preposition of Time. But what kind Preposition of time? Year? Day? Date? Hour? or what? By mastering rules related to Pronoun, you can narrow down your scope of searching only to three possibilities. I'm sure you know what those are.

How about the Adverb, then?

Well, you know that Adverb is closely related to Tenses, right? In your writing Task 1 for example, you have to be careful with the use of the Tense. If the year says 1960 and you use Present Tense, it could be (and would be) considered as a grammatical mistake. You got low score in grammatical aspect, you overall writing score might be affected. 
That's all for Preposition vs Adverb. I hope this will help you (and me, myself and I) deal with the Preposition-Adverb confusion.

Can They Relate to TOEFL?

Absolutely. In fact, we can find many questions that are related to Preposition and Adverb in the structure and written expression part of the TOEFL test. Take a look at these examples!


1. I'm tired of just _______________ here
a. Sit
b. To sit
c. Am sitting
d. Sitting

This is one example of how Preposition is used in a question. You have to find what word can best follow the Preposition "of". Of course, a Preposition can only be followed by a Gerund, so you know which one is the correct answer.

Written Expression

1. My brother and I (A) bought some (B) supplies in (C)Darcy's store yesterday (D)

This type of question requires you to find one grammatical error in the sentence. Preposition "in" is not suitable for specific place or location, so it's obvious where the mistake is.

Cheerio 👋

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