Basic Spanish Prepositions

Overview

Prepositions are used to indicate a relationship between two words, linking them together. Prepositions usually indicate location, direction, or time. As the prefix pre in the word preposition suggests, prepositions precede the word or words they link. 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.

a
 
to, at
desde
 
from, since
detrás (de)
 
behind
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
por
 
for, by
para
 
for, in order to

See the article on por vs. para for more information on this tricky pair of prepositions.

Preposition Use

In most cases, prepositions are used the same way in Spanish as they are in English, and you will find their placements fairly logical. There are a few Spanish prepositions, however, that warrant a little extra attention. Below you'll find a profile on a few of the more common Spanish prepositions.

Preposition Profile: a 

This very common preposition can mean to, at, by, or for, among other translations.

It can be used to:

  • indicate motion (translation: to)
Fuimos a España.
We went to Spain.
 
Iremos al museo el martes.
We will go to the museum on Tuesday.
 
  • connect a verb to another verb in the infinitive (translation: not translated directly)
Vamos a bailar.
We are going to dance.
 
Empecé a leer.
I began to read.
 
  • indicate manner, or how something is done (translation: on, by, with)
Vamos a pie.
We went on foot.
 
Lo hice a mano.
I did it by hand.
 
Escribe a lápiz.
He writes with a pencil.
 
  • introduce a person as a direct object, aka the personal a (translation: not translated directly)
¿Conoces a Isabela?
Do you know Isabela?
 
Veo a mi madre.
I see my mother.
 
  • introduce an indirect object (translation: 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.
 
  • express time (translation: at or no direct translation)
Cenamos a las seis.
We eat dinner at six o'clock.
 
Estamos a martes.
It is Tuesday.
 

Preposition Profile: de 

This preposition can mean of, from, or with, among other translations. It can be used to:

  • indicate possession (translation: of or possessive 's or s')
Atlanta es la capital de Georgia.
Atlanta is the capitol of Georgia.
 
el café de Manuel
Manuel's cafe
 
  • indicate cause (translation: from, with)
Estoy cansada de correr.
I am tired from running.
 
Estamos contentos de nuestro hijo.
We are happy with our son.
 
  • indicate origin (translation: from, of)
Ella es de Uruguay.
She is from Uruguay.
 
La gente de esta región es muy alta.
The people of this region are very tall.
 
  • talk about the beginning of a process (translation: from)
De ahora en adelante solo voy a tomar café en la mañana.
From now on I'm only going to drink coffee in the morning.
 
  • compare or talk about a member of a group (translation: in, of or than)
Sonia es la más inteligente de la familia.
Sonia is the most intelligent person in the family.
 
Juan es el más grande de todos los estudiantes del quinto grado.
Juan is the biggest of all 5th-grade students.
 
Hay más de 10 personas en la clase de historia.
There are more than 10 people in the history class.
 
  • describe a noun using another noun (translation: of or no direct translation)
un vaso de vino
a glass of wine
 
el jugo de naranja
orange juice
 

Preposition Profile: en 

This common preposition can mean in, on, at, about, or by, among other translations. It can be used to:

  • indicate location (translation: 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 (translation: 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, or how something is done (translation: by)
Vamos a Italia en tren.
We go to Italy by train.
 
Me voy al doctor en coche.
I go to the doctor by car.
 

Many common phrases also begin with en:

en broma
as a joke
 
en serio
seriously
 
en vivo
live
 

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