Know Your Prepositions: “In,” “Of,” and “To”
  • 3-minute read
  • 8th January 2020

Know Your Prepositions: “In,” “Of,” and “To”

We use prepositions to specify the relationship between two or more words in a sentence. This means mixing up your prepositions can completely change the meaning of what you say. And knowing which preposition to use can be tricky, especially if English isn’t your first language.

As such, we’re taking a closer look at three important examples of common prepositions: “in,” “of,” and “to.”

In (Inclusion in a Space or Time)

As a preposition, “in” can be used to specify that a noun (e.g., a cake) lies within something else, typically a place or space (e.g., an oven):

He put the cake mix in the oven. It should be ready soon!

It can also indicate inclusion within something abstract, like a field of activity:

The biggest names in baking will gather for the competition.

Or within a time period, such as a season, month, or year:

In 2012, I tasted a truly delicious bruschetta.

It can also indicate the means or medium used for something:

The recipe was written in German.

Of (Source, Composition, or Possession)

We use “of” to indicate the source of something, especially a part of a whole:

A piece of cake after lunch would be good.

It can also be used to indicate how something is composed:

Cake is mostly made of flour, eggs, butter and sugar.

Another use is to suggest a causal relationship between two things:

If we’d waited any longer for cake, we could have died of hunger.

Or to indicate possession or authorship:

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Their knowledge of cakes informed the decision of the judges.

Or to state the specific identity of a person or place:

Claxton, Georgia claims to be the “Fruit Cake Capital of the World“.

To (Movement, Relationship, or Motive)

The most important use of “to” may be indicating a direction or destination:

I am going to the bakery.

It also specifies a connection or relationship between two things:

The baker is married to my brother.

I am addicted to cake.

Or we can use it to attribute a motive or reason:

I’m going out to get cake.

It can also mean “approaching a condition”:

I was close to despair over the lack of cake in my life!

Or to indicate the recipient of something:

When she gave the cake to me, I felt relieved.

You may have noticed a theme to this blog post.
You may have noticed a theme to this post.

Prepositions: In, Of, and To

“In,” “of,” and “to” are all common prepositions, each with multiple meanings. Some of their most important uses include:

  • In – Specifying a relation of inclusion within a space or time.
  • Of – Specifying the source, composition, cause, or ownership of something.
  • To – Specifying a movement, direction, connection, motive, or recipient.

Make sure to look up any prepositions you’re unsure about in your writing (you can use the examples above to help). And if you would like an expert proofreader to check your preposition use, we have editors available 24/7.

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