For non-native English speakers, prepositions can be a nightmare. To, on, for, in … it often seems like they follow no set pattern, and even the best ESL speakers trip up sometimes. Because the verb to go is so common, I probably hear more preposition-based mistakes with this verb than any other. Luckily, there are four basic rules that will help you get it right most of the time:
First, let’s categorise what you want to say after go:
When moving from place to place, we use to after the verb to go.
- I go to Japan every year.
- I went to a coffee shop.
- I’ll go to the market tomorrow.
When talking about the reason for going somewhere, use on.
- She’s going on a business trip.
- My family went on vacation.
- He has gone on a course.
When the word following go is a preposition (e.g. under, in, next to, etc.), simply use that preposition (don’t add to or on).
- The car went under the bridge.
- The pens go in the box.
- The weather’s beautiful. Let’s go outside.
The word home is a special case. We don’t use a preposition when talking about going home.
- He went home at 9 o’clock.
- I always go home straight after work.
Can you answer the following questions correctly? Put your answers in the comments, and I’ll tell you if you’re right.
- Yesterday, my brother went __________ a ski trip.
- I’ve always wanted to go __________ Canada.
- You look tired. You should go ___________ home.
- He’s not here right now. He went __________ vacation yesterday.
- If you want to hide, you should go __________ the box.
- It’s a pedestrian bridge. People go _________ it.
- Do you want to go _________ the bank?
- The weather’s beautiful. Let’s go __________.
- I hate going __________ business trips.
- It’s time to go __________ home.
BONUS TIP: You can use more than one prepositional phrase, e.g. I went on holiday to England.
For a fuller list of English prepositions, try English Grammar Online.