Overview

Prepositions are used to indicate a relationship between two words, linking them together. These words usually show location, direction, or time. As preposition suggests, these words precede the word or words it links. There are simple prepositions, which consist of only one word, and compound prepositions, which consist of multiple words.

Simple prepositions

Below you will find a list of the most common simple prepositions in Spanish.

Simple Prepositions

a to, at desde from, since por for, by, through
ante before, in the presence of en in, on, at según according to
bajo under entre between, among sin without
con with hacia until, toward sobre about, on, upon, above, over, around
contra against hasta until, toward tras after, behind
de of, from para for, in order to

Uses

In most cases, prepositions are used the same way in Spanish as they are used in English and you will find their placements fairly logical. There are a few, however, that warrant a little extra attention. For each preposition you will find the occasions it is used most commonly as well as several examples with translations.

1. a (to, at, by, for)

to indicate motion (to)

  • Fuimos a España. (We went to Spain.)
  • Irémos al museo el martes. (We will go to the museum on Tuesday.)

to connect one verb to an infinitive (not translated directly)

  • Vamos a bailar. (We are going to dance.)
  • Empezé a leer. (I began to read.)

to indicate manner, how something is done (on, by, with)

  • Vamos a pie. (We went on foot.)
  • Lo hice a mano. (He did it by hand.)
  • Escribe a lápiz. (He writes with a pencil.)

"Personal a" - to introduce a person as a direct object (not translated directly)

  • ¿Conoces a Isabela? (Do you know Isabela?)
  • Veo a mi madre. (I see my mother.)

to introduce an indirect object (to, for)

  • Le di el regalo a Celia. (I gave the gift to Celia.)
  • Compré los tomates a Anita. (I bought the tomatoes for Anita.)

to express time (at, is)

  • Cenamos a las seis. (We eat dinner at six o´clock.)
  • Estamos a martes. (It is Tuesday.)

A + EL = AL

Notice that when a is immediately followed by the definite article el, the two combine to become al.

  • Vamos [a el] cafe -> Vamos al cafe. (a + el = al)

2. de (of, from)

to indicate possession (of)

  • Atlanta es la capitol de Georgia. (Atlanta is the capitol of Georgia.)
  • El café de Manuel (Manuel´s cafe)

to indicate cause (from, with)

  • Estoy cansada de correr. (I am tired from running.)
  • Estamos contentos de nuestro hijo. (We are happy with our son.)

to indicate origin (from, of)

  • Ella es de Uruguay. (She is from Uruguay.)
  • Sonia es la más inteligente de la familia. (Sonia es the most intelligent of the family.)

to describe a noun with another noun or infinitive (of)

  • Un vaso de vino (A glass of wine)
  • El jugo de naranja (Orange juice)

to compare (than)

  • Tengo más dinero de ella. (I have more money than her.)
  • Mi trabajo es más difícil de tuyo. (My job is more difficult than yours.)

idioms (see compound prepositions below)

  • De ahora en adelante (From now on)
  • De pie (Standing)

DE + EL = DEL

Notice that when de is immediately followed by the definite article el, the two combine to become del.

  • Este pescado es [de el] lago. -> Este pescado es del lago. (de + el = del)

3. en (in, on, at, about, by)

to indicate location (in, on, at)

  • Está en mi mochila. (It is in my backpack.)
  • Pon el cuadro en la pared. (Put the painting on the wall.)
  • Ellos están en la iglesia. (They are at church.)

to indicate time (in)

  • Fui a Perú en el verano. (I went to Peru in the summer.)
  • Vienen en una hora. (They are arriving in one hour.)

to indicate manner, how something is done (by)

  • Vamos a Italia en tren. (We go to Italia by train.)
  • Me voy al doctor en coche. (I go to the doctor by car.)

idioms (see compound prepositions below)

  • En broma (As a joke)
  • En serio (Seriously)
  • En vivo (Live)

4. para and por (for)

Para and por may be two of the biggest troublemakers in learning Spanish. They both mean for, but are used in different ways. Because of the popularity of this controversy, por vs. para has its own reference here.

Compound Prepostions

The following prepositions are made up of multiple words. You will find a list below of the most common compound prepositions used in Spanish. These make speech more fluid and are most commonly used by native speakers. Compound prepositions are generally made up of preposition + noun + preposition or adverb + preposition.

Compound Prepositions

a cargo de (in charge of) de vez en cuando (from time to time)
a causa de (because of, due to) debajo de (under, beneath)
a excepción de (with exception of) delante de (in front of)
a favor de (in favor of) dentro de (in, inside of)
a fuerza de (with perseverence) desde luego (of course)
a fines de (at the end of) después de (after)
a mediados de (around) detrás de (behind, in back of)
a menos de (without (+ infinitive) en cambio (on the other hand)
a pesar de (in spite of) en efecto (in fact)
a pie (on foot, walking) en vez de (instead of)
a tiempo (on time) en virtud de (by virtue of)
a través de (through) encima de (above, on top of)
acerca de (concerning) enfrente de (in front of)
además de (moreover) frente a (before, in front of)
adversamente a (adverse to) fuera de (outside of)
al norte de (to the north of) junto a (next to, beside)
al sur de (to the south of) lejos de (far from)
al través de (across from) por causa de (by cause of, because)
alrededor de (around) por parte de (on account of)
antes de (before) por razón de (by reason of)
cerca de (close to) relativamente a (relative to)
contrario a (contrary to) respeto a (with respect to)
correspondiente a (corresponding to) sin embargo de (however)
de ahora en adelante (from now on) tocante a (about, concerning)

Examples

  • Quiero una ensalada en vez del bistec. (I want a salad instead of the steak.)
  • No hay mas sillas, por eso, estamos de pie. (There aren't any more chairs. Because of this, we are standing.)
  • El baño está al través del café. (The bathroom is across from the cafe.)

Exercises

1) Replace each English word in parenthesis with its corresponding simple preposition.

Example: La ensalada es mejor (without) champiñones. -> La ensalada es mejor sin champiñones.

  1. Pon la paella (on) la mesa.
  2. (According to) mi madre, soy bonita.
  3. (Until) me das el dinero, no reciberás nada.
  4. Vamos (to) la fiesta (at) las ocho.
  5. El baño está (between) dos puertas rojas.

2) Complete each sentence with a compound preposition from the word bank.

Word Bank

de, ahora, en, adelante, junto a, de vez en cuando, lejos de, en vez de, en cambio

  1. ___|\___|\___|\___|\___|__, voy a caminar todas las mañanas.
  2. Mi casa no está cerca de las montañas, es muy ___|\___|\___|\___|\___|__ las montañas.
  3. El hombre guapo está ___|\___|\___|\___|\___|\___| el balcón.
  4. Me gusta cocinar ___|\___|\___|\___|\___|\___|\___|__, no mucho.
  5. Ella no es muy amable, pero ___|\___|\___|\___|\___|_ es muy cómica.
  6. Voy a comprar estos pasteles ___|\___|\___|\___|\___|__ esos pastels.

Answers

Part 1

  1. en
  2. Según
  3. Hasta
  4. a, a
  5. entre

Part 2

  1. De ahora en adelante
  2. lejos de
  3. junto a
  4. de vez en cuando
  5. en cambio
  6. en vez de