Spanish Prepositions

Prepositions (and Related Terms)

What is a preposition? A preposition is the part of speech that shows the relation of a noun or a pronoun to some other word in a sentence, clause, or phrase.
Prepositions often are referred to as "those little words." But they are little words that mean a lot, for prepositions reveal place, time, direction, manner, and companionship, among other things.
For the most part, prepositions are used to show the relationship between nouns and pronouns.


  • I am with Carlota.
  • Estoy con Carlota.
  • Are you in the hospital?
  • ¿Estás en el hospital?
  • Roberto is near my house.
  • Roberto está cerca de mi casa.

Each of these prepositions used in the examples reveals the relationship between the subject of the sentence (I, You, Roberto) and the object of the preposition (Carlota, hospital, house). To change a preposition is to change the meaning of the sentence entirely.


  • I am far from Carlota.
  • Estoy lejos de Carlota.
  • Are you next door to the hospital.
  • ¿Estás al lado del hospital?
  • Roberto is in my house.
  • Roberto está en mi casa.

Because prepositions are so specific in meaning, it is important to study them in depth. As you rule, you cannot substitute or "talk around" these words; prepositions do not have synonyms the way many nouns and other words do. The language blossoms for the student who has a command of prepositions.

Prepositions or Adverbs?

The relationship between nouns and pronouns in a sentence is revealed by prepositions. Other than the preposition itself, their only link is a verb, usually the verb to be. In the previous examples, you'll find I am, Roberto is, you are.
At times, however, these prepositions actually modify a verb. While the term or prepositional phrase itself does not change, its part of speech does. That is, its function in the sentence changes from preposition to adverb. Here is the guideline:
The term is a preposition if it connects two (or more) nouns and/or pronouns. In the cases, the verb will almost always be the linking verb to be. In Spanish, depending on the context, the linking verb will be ser or estar.
The same term or prepositional phrase becomes an adverb when, instead of linking nouns or pronouns, it modifies an action verb.

Linking Verb - Preposition

El ladrón está cerca de la casa.

The thief is near the house.

John está detrás de la pared.

John is behind the wall.

Action Verb - Adverb

El ladrón se esconde cerca de la casa.

The thief is hiding near the house.

John camina detrás de la pared.

John walks behind the wall.

The next section of the text essentially is intended to build your vocabulary. Take the time to learn these words and terms well. An ability to work - and play - with them increase youir command of the Spanish language enormously.

Prepositions Showing a Relationship Between Nouns and/or Pronouns

One of the principal functions of a preposition is to demonstrate what the connection or relationships is between two or more people or things. This relationship can be physical and concrete, as in "The chair is against the wall"; or it can be abstract, as in "He writes poems about love".


  • La silla está contra la pared.
  • The chair is against the wall.
  • Quiero un libro sobre economía.
  • I want a book on economics.

The following list contains prepositions that show a relationship.

aboutacerca de
about, on (topic)sobre
according tosegún
besides, in addition toademás de
exceptexcepto, menos, salvo
instead ofen vez de, en lugar de

Prepositions of Physical Location

Perhaps the most common role of the preposition is to tell where something or someone is physically in relation to something or someone else: "The car is in front of the house." "John is to the right of Carmen."
You may notice that several prepositions of physical location are made up of more than one word. For prepositions that end with de, a noun or a pronoun must follow. If what is meant to follow is obvious or understood and you want to omit it, then you omit the word de as well and place the preposition at the end of the sentence.

Note also that because these prepositions show location, the verb estar is frequently used.
The one exception to estar and location is when you are telling where an event takes place. In this context, you use ser.

Location Event
María está en el teatro. El concierto es en el teatro.
María is in the theater. The concert is in (at) the theater.

At versus in: An important distinction must be made between the prepositions at and in. A good rule to remember is that prepositions in Spanish are very literal. Whereas in English you would probably say "I work at Sears," the reality is that when you are working, you are physically in Sears. Thus, you would say in Spanish, "Trabajo en Sears."
When there is no movement, you still use en, even though you would clearly use at in English.


  • Estoy en la puerta de su casa.
  • I am at the door of his house.
  • Estoy en su casa.
  • I am in (inside) his house.
  • Miro las vitrinas en Bloomingdale's.
  • I look at the store windows at Bloomindale's.
  • Compro mi ropa en Bloomindale's.
  • I buy my clothing at (in) Bloomingdale's.

The following are a sampling of prepositions of physical location:

acrossa través de
across from, oppositeenfrente de
amongentre (varias cosas o personas)
ata, en
behinddetrás de
betweenentre (dos cosas o personas)
bycerca de, junto a
facingfrente a
far fromlejos de
in front (of)delante (de)
insidedentro de
near, close tocerca de
next to, next door (to)al lado (de), junto (a)
on top ofencima de, sobre
outsidefuera de
to the left (of)a la izquierda (de)
to the right (of)a la derecha (de)
underdebajo de

Prepositions of Movement

In addition to telling where something or someone is, prepositions and prepositions that function as adverbs can reveal where something or someone is going.


  • Estas conchas a lo largo de la playa son hermosas.
  • These shells along the beach are beautiful.
  • Ayer caminé a lo largo de la playa.
  • Yesterday, I walked along the beach.

The following prepositions all indicate movement:

alonga lo largo de
aroundalrededor de
backward(s)hacia atrás
beyondmás allá de
forward(s)hacia adelante
sidewaysde lado
through, throughoutpor

Prepositions of Geographical Location

The following prepositional phrases are the principal terms you will need to give and describe geographical directions. Note that in English, we often say "north of" instead of "to the north of." When using the Spanish expressions, keep in mind the complete phrase.

to the north ofal norte de
to the south ofal sur de
to the east ofal este de
to the west ofal oeste de
to the northeast ofal noreste de
to the northwest ofal noroeste de
to the southeast ofal sureste de
to the southwest ofal suroeste de


  • Hay una gasolineria al norte del supermercado.
  • There is a gas station north of the supermarket.
  • La mina está al noreste del bosque.
  • The mine is to the northeast of the forest.

Prepositions of Origin and Destination

Prepositions are also used to express origin and destination. In reality, these prepositions are variations of prepositions that show direction. Think of these prepositions as revealing direction intime. Mentally, to reach the origin of something, you move toward the past; to reach the destination, you move toward the future.

because of, fora causa de, por
bypor, de to indicate authorship
(all the way) fromdesde

for (purpose / destination)para


  • Me encantan los poemas de Gabriela Mistral.
  • I love the poems by Gabriela Mistral. (origin)
  • Salen para Francia mañana.
  • They leave for France tomorrow. (destination)

Prepositions of Time

Prepositions and prepositions that function as adverbs can be used to demonstrate a relationship in time. As with prepositions of location, the terms themselves do not change; only the function, or part of speech, changes.
To review, a term is a preposition when it connects two or more nouns and/or pronouns. In these cases, the verb almost always will be linking verb to be (ser or estar). A term is an adverb when it modifies an action verb.
The following terms are used to express time:

afterdespués de
beforeantes de
to, untila


  • Me esperarán hasta mañana.
  • They'll wait for me until tomorrow.
  • Llámame antes de las ocho.
  • Call me before eight.

Prepositions of Location at the End of a Sentence or Clause

With many prepositional phrases that end in de (encima de, cerca de, lejos de, etc...), you only need to drop the de if you want the sentence or clause to end with the preposition, usually when the object of the preposition is understood.


  • El libro está encima de la mesa.
  • The book is on top of the table.
  • El libro está encima.
  • The book is on top.

With every rule there are exceptions. The following four terms must come at the end of a sentence or clause and cannot be followed by a noun. Usually, the object of the preposition is understood when these terms are used.

downstairs, underneathabajo
upstairs, abovearriba


  • Estamos adentro.
  • We are inside (the house).
  • Ellos están afuera.
  • They are outside (the house).

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