I have come across a definition of compound prepositions on


"Compound prepositions are those prepositions which are formed by prefixing the preposition to a noun, an adjective or an adverb" Examples: above, along, inside, around, before, behind, below, beneath etc.

The boys ran around the bench

The book is inside the cupboard

The fan is above the table

I am unable to understand this definition, members are requested to make this clear to me.

Thanks in advance!

  • 4
    That's correct if you change the catalog "a noun, an adjective or an adverb" to some other word. Otherwise it's incorrect because it's not complete. A compound preposition is like a compound noun or a clause or a verb phrase -- it's got parts, instead of being just one word. An example is in front of, which is in fact used as if it were a single word, instead of a prepositional phrase followed by another preposition. Others include off of and out of. Any grammar book that doesn't give at least three examples of any term it expects you to understand is only good for starting fires. Jan 24, 2015 at 16:40
  • 3
    ...Though some writers call all single-word prepositions (in, to, into, inside) simple prepositions and all multi-word prepositions (out of, on top of, over against) compound prepositions or complex prepositions as disjoint classes. These writers ignore the fact that some of what they call simple prepositions have certainly arisen through compounding of two or more shorter words at some point in history. Jan 24, 2015 at 16:53
  • Throw that grammar away. It puts confusing ideas into your head, and obviously is unable to formulate a clear idea, and uses terms that lead astray.
    – rogermue
    Jul 7, 2015 at 17:01
  • @rogermue But other than that, ....
    – deadrat
    Nov 18, 2015 at 19:54

4 Answers 4


The commenters are correct. I think what your book is trying to say (and apparently using the wrong definition for "compound prepsition") is that the cited prepositions were developed by combining

a- with -round, in- with side, be- with -low, -hind, -neath, etc.


I think the above cited definition is not that bizarre. Judging by the very meaning of the word 'compound' itself: a preposition combined by mixing two words. Words like be+neath and with+in should comfortably fit into this definition. After all the word preposition per-se is a compound of pre+position. And by the way what about compound adverbs such as whenever, hereafter, or compound pronouns like whoever, whatever and so on?

Moreover, if you begin to consider the multi-word prepositions as compounds, a number of phrasal verbs containing any number of prepositions will lose their separate identity and jump onto the bandwagon of compound prepositions.


By its very definition and function, a preposition is placed before a noun or a pronoun to show its place or position or in grammatical terms preposition combines two different grammatical units.. When it comes to defining a compound preposition, I must say the above cited definition does not make a clear point... It rather creates confusion on the bases of syllables and archaism... a compound preposition is, more logically, combination of two or more prepositions to form one preposition and when bifurcated both can be and should be used as preposition at their own places I.e. the boy jumped into the water. " into" is used as a preposition here_ compound preposition... let's take in and to used in separate ways he went in the room and he went to school. Now, let's take a look at words such as "above" and " between" and " beneath" if we use them collectively before a noun or a pronoun, they make a sense to mind and can be used for preposition. But the same words can't be further divided into propositional function defined above... Hence I would like to conclude that your definition either needs to be revised or at least revisited...


Compound prepositions are the ones without a split though are formed by bringing two things together...ex ..across, beneath , before, behind....Doble prepositions come with a split ..ex ...out of ..., from outside, from across...Phrasal prepositions mostlybegin and end up with prepositions with one noun /verb/adjective in between ...ex...by virtue of, in accordance with, in view of...

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