In front of, before, above, below, by, around, next to…
What do the words above have in common?
Perhaps some of you aren’t sure—and perhaps many of you knew the answer right away.
They are all, in fact, prepositions.
Yet, even if you knew what they were right off the bat, do you know exactly what a preposition is?
Many times, we are taught that a preposition is a term that describes the place of a noun. While that is true in the case of prepositions like “under,” “above,” “near” and “by,” prepositions also describe the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence.
For example, in the sentence “she voted against the new policy,” the preposition “against” shows the relationship between the pronoun “she” and “the new policy.”
They can also be added to certain verbs to form phrasal verbs.
You may be a master of English prepositions—or maybe their true usage just “clicked” after reading the above description—but now you find yourself struggling with the Spanish ones as the languages are so different.
Does por versus para confuse you? You are definitely not alone. And don’t worry, we are here to help! Whether you are learning alone or with study buddies, the tips and info below will benefit your studies.
Where to Practice Spanish Prepositions Online
All right, so you are now starting your endeavor to have every single Spanish preposition memorized! Okay, maybe not fully memorized, but you may at least want them to start coming to you more easily. This can only happen with, you guessed it, practice!
Here are some great ways to study the prepositions in the upcoming list:
- A quick and relatively easy quiz to begin your preposition practice can be found at Spanish.ToLearnFree.com. Each question features a drop-down list of a few prepositions for you to choose from.
- Learnspanishfeelgood.com features 24 exercises to test your knowledge of prepositions. It includes nice activities like using prepositions of time and tests on the difference between por and para.
- For activities of varying abilities, check out the About.com Spanish preposition page. There you can take any of the different levels of multiple choice quizzes on prepositions.
- FluentU has a good number of videos dedicated to teaching prepositions in Spanish.Check out this video focusing on prepositions of location. After viewing the first video, be sure to watch part two for a complete learning experience. Then, check this video explains prepositions of place. Explore FluentU’s catalogue for even more great ways to learn!
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The 23 Most Common Spanish Prepositions You Should Know
Most commonly, the Spanish preposition a translates to “to” in English. For example:
Voy a la casa de mi amiga. (I am going to my friend’s house.)
It can also connect a conjugated ir to an infinitive. For example:
Ellos van a nadar. (They are going to swim.)
Meaning: In front of, before
An easy way to remember the meaning of this word is to think of the English prefix “ante-” (as in the word “antecedent”) which means the same thing it does in Spanish. For example:
El gato estaba ante la casa. (The cat was in front of the house.)
3. alrededor de
This simply means “around.” For example:
Hay flores alrededor de la iglesia. (There are flowers around the church.)
It can also be used to mean “around” in the context of giving an approximation. For example:
En la escuela, hay alrededor de 1500 estudiantes. (In the school, there are around 1500 students.)
Meaning: Under, underneath
El perro está bajo la mesa. (The dog is under/underneath the table.)
It can also be used in a sense of rule under a political figure.
Bajo Kim Jong-un, Corea del Norte ha tenido muchos problemas. (Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea has had many problems.)
Meaning: With, in spite of
For an example of con meaning “with,” check out the following line:
Voy a la fiesta con mis amigos. (I am going to the party with my friends.)
For an example of con meaning “in spite of,” try:
Con todo lo que ha pasado en mi vida, me mantengo optimista. (In spite of all that has happened in my life, I remain an optimist.)
Meaning: Against (in various contexts)
This can mean “against” in the sense of being opposed to something, for example:
Ellos están contra las nuevas leyes. (They are against the new laws.)
And it can also refer to being physically against something:
La mesa está contra la pared. (The table is against the wall.)
Meaning: From, of, with
An example of “from” is when de is used to indicate origin.
Mi abuela es de Canadá. (My grandmother is from Canada.)
This does not only apply to the origin of people but also things.
Mi camisa es de los Estados Unidos. (My shirt is from the United States.)
De can mean “of.” For example:
El plato está hecho de plástico. (The plate is made from plastic.)
And de can mean “from.”
Ella estaba gritando de tristeza. (She was screaming from sadness.)
There are also ways in which de is used that cannot be directly translated to English. For example, in the song “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira, there is a line saying “baila la calle de noche,” which means “dance the streets at night.”
Meaning: From, since
In the case of “from,” desde could be used as follows:
Llamaré a mi madre desde tu casa. (I will call my mother from your house.)
In the case of “since,” which is the most common use for desde in Spanish, the following sentence is an example:
No la he visto desde ayer. (I haven’t seen her since yesterday.)
9. debajo de
Meaning: Under, underneath
El gato estaba sentando debajo de la silla. (The cat was sitting under the chair.)
Meaning: In, into, by
An example of en meaning “in” is as follows:
Las cerezas están en la nevera. (The cherries are in the fridge.)
Another example of en as “in” refers to the manner in which people do things.
Mi padre habla en voz alta. (My dad speaks out loud.)
An example of en meaning “into” is as follows:
El chico cayó en la piscina. (The boy fell into the pool.)
An example of en meaning “by” is as follows:
Voy a la biblioteca en coche. (I go to the library by car.)
Meaning: Between, among
La puerta está entre las ventanas. (The door is between the windows.)
Yo encontré a mi hermana entre la multitud. (I found my sister among the crowd.)
12. encima de
Meaning: On top of
Tu sombrero está encima de la cama. (Your hat is on top of the bed.)
13. frente a
Meaning: Before, in front of
Hay un McDonald’s frente a mi escuela. (There is a McDonald’s in front of my school.)
14. fuera de
Meaning: Outside of
El perro esperó fuera del hospital. (The dog waited outside the hospital.)
This sentence also acts as a reminder that when de comes before el, the two are combined into the word del.
Meaning: Towards, about (in regards to time)
Ellos corrieron hacia la salida del edificio. (They ran towards the building’s exit.)
Voy a llegar hacia las dos de la tarde. (I am going to arrive around two in the afternoon.)
Meaning: Until, up to, down to
Here, hasta means “until”:
Ellos se van a quedar con nosotros hasta mañana. (They are going to stay with us until tomorrow.)
Here, hasta means “up to”:
Este ascensor tiene capacidad para hasta 10 personas. (This elevator has capacity for up to 10 people.)
Here, hasta means “down to”:
La temperatura bajó hasta los 10 grados. (The temperature went down to 10 degrees.)
Meaning: For, by, because of, through, per
Yes, por is used to mean many different things! Below are some examples of the most common uses of por.
Estaré en la casa de mis abuelos por el día de Acción de Gracias. (I will be in my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving Day.)
Para ir al gimnasio, tienes que pasar por la farmacia. (To go to the gym, you have to pass by the pharmacy.)
No fui a trabajar por la gripe. (I didn’t go to work because of the flu.)
Ellos pasaron por el pasillo. (They passed through the hallway.)
Son quince dólares por libra. (They’re 15 dollars per pound.)
18. detrás de
Ella caminó detrás de su tía. (She walked behind her aunt.)
Meaning: According to, depending on
With según meaning “depending on”:
Según el tiempo, podemos ir a la playa. (Depending on the time, we can go to the beach.)
In the following sentence, según means “according to”:
Según su madre, la tienda cierra a las siete. (According to her mother, the store closes at 7:00.)
Ahora, Elena puede hacer su tarea sin la ayuda de sus padres. (Now, Elena can do her homework without her parents’ help.)
Meaning: On, about, over
Por favor, no pongas tu ropa sucia sobre la mesa. (Please don’t put your dirty clothes on the table.)
Busco un libro sobre animales salvajes. (I’m looking for a book about wild animals.)
El avión voló sobre el océano. (The plane flew over the ocean.)
Mes tras mes, ella se siente cada vez más tranquila. (Month after month, she feels increasingly calmer.)
Meaning: For, to, in order to
Para ir a mi casa, tienes que manejar un coche. (In order to go to my house, you have to drive a car.)
Note: As you have surely noticed, we have listed some elements which are composed of two words: detrás de, alrededor de, frente a, etc. These are not strictly prepositions but locuciones preposicionales (prepositional phrases), groups of more than one word which, together, have the function of a preposition.
One thing is for sure—if you invest time into learning prepositions and how they are used, you will soon be a complete pro at prepositions.
This list is only the beginning.
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