Alright, as I am about to write this introduction, I have been presented with the fact that there are postpositions and circumpositions in addition to prepositions. I fully recognize my inadequacies in grasping the full content of the English language, but “postpositions” and “circumpositions”? Never heard of them in the last six years of tutoring. The three together form a larger class of words referred to as adpositions.
Let me toss a little Wikipedia in here…
“An adposition typically combines with exactly one complement, most often a noun phrase (or, in a different analysis, a determiner phrase). In English, this is generally a noun (or something functioning as a noun, e.g., a gerund), together with its specifier and modifiers such as articles, adjectives, etc. The complement is sometimes called the object of the adposition. The resulting phrase, formed by the adposition together with its complement, is called an adpositional phrase or prepositional phrase (PP) (or for specificity, a postpositional or circumpositional phrase).”
Whatever you might be inclined to do, don’t ever read this to any of your students! The eyes will gloss over, and the muttering will commence. I suggest instead that you seek a congenial discourse; something more like this:
“Prepositions are those words that indicate relationships between the things being discussed. They point out the when and where of one thing in relation to another thing. An example of such would be, ‘The boy stood in front of the door.’, or ‘Age before beauty.’”
Now this sounds pretty straight-forward. Unfortunately, it is not always a simple task to select the right preposition when executing a relationship. Does one say “in order to” or simply the word “to”? How about “in the course of” vs. “during”. Here, we’re really talking about dialectical preferences. One good preposition in Boston is an anathema in Birmingham. This is good to keep in mind when you suggest one preposition over the next for your student(s) to use in a particular phrase.
And I have noticed that translating prepositions from Spanish to English can get a bit confusing for the Hispanic student. “a la escuela”, might well translate to “at the school” or “to the school” or “of the school” or “into the school” or “by the school”; all depending upon prepositional intent that exists solely in the mind of the speaker or the observed actions of one’s positional relationship with the school.
There’s quite a few of these adpositions. One of the download is a rather lengthy list of them. I suggest not to teach too many of them at any one time. Let a dozen settle in well before advancing the ball.
By the way… at my last reconnoitering, it is my understanding that it’s acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition; though I guess that makes it a postposition then.