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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
|about, on (topic)
|besides, in addition to
|excepto, menos, salvo
|en vez de, en lugar de
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.
|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.
|a través de
|across from, opposite
|entre (varias cosas o personas)
|entre (dos cosas o personas)
|cerca de, junto a
|in front (of)
|near, close to
|next to, next door (to)
|al lado (de), junto (a)
|on top of
|encima de, sobre
|to the left (of)
|a la izquierda (de)
|to the right (of)
|a la derecha (de)
In addition to telling where something or someone is, prepositions and prepositions that function as adverbs can reveal where something or someone is going.
|a lo largo de
|más allá de
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 of
|al norte de
|to the south of
|al sur de
|to the east of
|al este de
|to the west of
|al oeste de
|to the northeast of
|al noreste de
|to the northwest of
|al noroeste de
|to the southeast of
|al sureste de
|to the southwest of
|al suroeste de
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, for
|a causa de, por
|por, de to indicate authorship
|(all the way) from
|for (purpose / destination)
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:
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.
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.