Once, early in my teaching career, I was helping a group with an exercise on prepositions. One of the group asked me: “Phil, do we really need to learn this?”

He went on to argue that it often doesn’t matter which preposition is used if people know what we mean. For example, if someone says I’m in holiday, I’m of holiday or I’m to holiday, we’ll probably understand, even though they’re all incorrect (I’m on holiday would, of course, be correct in this case.

He acknowledged the importance of the proposition in a sentence like: I’m sitting at my desk, I’m sitting on my desk or I’m sitting under my desk, but I could definitely see his point about the previous example – nobody expects a non-native speaker to be perfect.

If someone asks me the same question today (and that happens quite often), I always answer that if you often need to say on holiday, it doesn’t take a huge effort to learn it. Just remember the special combination and it won’t be long before you start using it instinctively.

For German speakers, there a number of typical preposition mistakes that are easy to make – I hear some almost every day.

Try my prepositions quiz by clicking here. How many of these typical mistakes do you make?