This will be a short article on a really big topic. In my day-to-day teaching I find that choosing the correct preposition is one of the most common areas of difficulty for ESL students. They often make mistakes because they assume that they can translate the preposition used in their own language into its equivalent in English. So, for example, a German student might say: Aspirin is a good product against headaches (Aspirin ist ein gutes Mittel gegen Kopfschmerzen. / gegen = against), not knowing that in English we would write: Aspirin is a good product for headaches. (I have to say that in this case German is more logical than English!)
Another cause of mistakes is when the mother tongue uses a preposition in a particular expression but English doesn't, or vice versa. For example, in the German sentence Ich hoere gern Musik there is no preposition, but it is required in the English equivalent I like listening to music. It is all the more difficult because there are few general rules that the student can learn in order to make things easier for her. Why should it be, for example, that you can see a person in a photograph but the photograph is on the wall? The student has to learn each expression containing a preposition case by case.
Fill in the gaps in these sentences with the correct preposition: