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The Definitive Guide to Prepositions of Place in Spanish 📍

The Definitive Guide to Prepositions of Place in Spanish (a, de, en, sobre,...)

Have you ever noticed that when you explain where something is, if something is close to something else, or far away from something else, or where you are heading to, you’re using a lot of different prepositions? 

They’re called prepositions of place, and of course they exist in Spanish as well! 

These prepositions might seem very confusing for you as a student of Spanish because there are a lot of different ones, but fear not! In this article you will learn all about prepositions of place. More specifically, you will learn how to use them and how to learn them in phrases so you always get them right when speaking Spanish.

Most common prepositions of place

Let’s keep things simple: prepositions don’t come from Mars. They’re just words and phrases that give us specific information. For now, we’ll focus on those that relate to place and movement, also called locative prepositions.

Prepositions also exist in English and you use them sin darte cuenta (without even noticing). If you learn the chunks I’ll provide you with in this video by heart, Spanish prepositions will roll off your tongue like they do in English! 

Chunks, as we call them at Spring Spanish, are fixed language structures that never, ever change. Therefore, it’s easy to learn them without having to worry too much about grammar rules.

So, which are the most common prepositions of place in Spanish?

Look at this sentence:

  • ¡Vamos a la playa! (Let’s go to the beach!) 

In English, the word “to” is telling the other person where you want to go: to the beach. The equivalent of “to” in Spanish is “a”: a la playa. So, the preposition a allows us to express direction and it may be followed by the name of a country, the name of a city, or a particular place, like the beach or a library. 

For example: 

  • ¡Vamos a Perú! (Let’s go to Peru!)
  • El próximo año iré a Montevideo. (Next year, I’ll travel to Montevideo)
  • ¿Vas a la biblioteca? (Are you going to the library?)

This preposition is also useful when giving directions. Look: 

  • Para llegar al banco, da vuelta a la derecha. (To reach the bank, turn right)
  • La tienda está a la izquierda. (The store is to the left)

Another preposition that allows us to express direction is “hacia”, which could be translated as to or towards. To understand how it works, let’s go over a couple of chunks: 

  • Este camino lleva hacia la costa. (This road leads to the coast)
  • El perro vino hacia mí. (The dog came towards me)

Now, if you want to express where you are coming from, you should use the preposition “de”, which is an equivalent. 

So, you may use it to talk about your nationality: Soy de Canadá. (I’m from Canada).

Or simply to talk about where you were: Vengo del gimnasio (I come from the gym).

Useful Prepositional Phrases

Prepositions may be combined to express more complex ideas. 

For example: 

  • El aeropuerto está cerca del hotel. (The airport is close to the hotel)
  • El aeropuerto está lejos del hotel. (The airport is far from the hotel)

Now, you might’ve noticed that “de” turned into “del” in these examples. That happens whenever this preposition appears next to the article “el”.

So, to say that something is geographically near, you should accompany the preposition “de” by the word “cerca”, which means near; but if you want to express geographical distance, you should use the word “lejos”, which means far. “Cerca de” and “lejos de” are prepositional phrases or, simply, chunks! So, you may learn them by heart!

Let’s have a look at other examples:

  • La pluma está debajo del sillón. (The pen is under the sofa)

In this case, the combination of “debajo” and “de”, which is also a prepositional phrase, may be translated as “under”. If translated literally, however, it would be something like [under of the sofa]. Obviously, that doesn’t sound right because the English word “under” doesn’t like company, but its equivalent in Spanish, debajo, needs the preposition “de” to actually carry the message across.  

This is also a chunk! So, if you learn it by heart, you’ll notice it’ll roll off your tongue in no time.

Another set of chunks where the preposition “de” is involved are “detrás de” (behind) and “delante de” (in front of). Let’s have a look at a couple of examples.

  • El panda está detrás del libro. (Baby panda is behind the book)
  • El panda está delante del libro. (Baby panda is in front of the book)

Talking about location

Now, let’s go back to one-word prepositions to talk about location.

  • El panda está sobre el libro. (The panda is above the book)
  • El panda está sobre el libro. (The panda is on the book)

So, “sobre” basically allows us to indicate that something is directly on or above something.

If you want to take it a step further and use a prepositional phrase, you could say: El panda está encima del libro. (The panda is on the book). The preposition “de” meddles once again. This preposition is very nosy!

Be careful, though! The English preposition “on” may also be translated as “en” in some cases. But if you say, El panda está en el libro, the message you will convey is that it is a character in the book.

Now, the preposition “en” is very useful to talk about location. Let’s have a look at some examples: 

  • Me senté en la cama. (I sat on the bed)
  • Estoy en mi cuarto. (I’m in my room)
  • Vivo en Ciudad de México. (I live in Mexico City)

Where are you right now? Tell me in the comments below!

FREE Spanish Training

¡Muy bien! Now you know the most important prepositions that will allow you to talk about location or direction. Remember, these are locative prepositions, but if you don’t want to worry too much about grammar, you should not miss out on the free Spanish training you’ll find on our website. 

You’ll get free sample Spanish lessons, where you’ll learn everything you need to know about the chunk-method I mentioned earlier. Like I said, this method will allow you to learn Spanish without having to worry about grammar or drills. Additionally, you should definitely check out our Spanish beginner videos. You’ll find them all on our channel.

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