Prepositions in Spanish

No matter how advanced a learner you are, prepositions are always a complicated subject. They are an area where even native speakers can stumble, and they can vary a lot from language to language.

With that in mind, let's go over some of the most common prepositions in Spanish and how they compare with English ones.

Spanish prepositions Spanish prepositions
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How Do Spanish Prepositions Work?

When it comes to grammar, Spanish prepositions are fairly similar to English ones. Just like in English, they are used to express a relationship between two words or clauses, and they typically precede a noun or a pronoun.

What Are the Most Common Spanish Prepositions?

Even though Spanish and English prepositions work quite similarly, there are clear differences when it comes to meaning. In many cases, there is no direct correlation between the meanings of prepositions in both languages.

The following table shows the most common prepositions in Spanish and their closest translation in English:

A

To, at

Ante

Before

Bajo

Under

Con

With

Contra

Against

De

Of, from

Desde

From

Durante

During

En

In, on, at

Entre

Between, among

Hacia

Toward

Hasta

Until

Mediante

Through, by way of

Para

For, in order to

Por

For, by

Según

According to

Sin

Without

Sobre

About, on, over

Tras

After, behind

Vía

Via

Let's take a look at these prepositions in context:

  • Fui a Brasil. - I went to Brazil.
  • Se arrodilló ante el rey. - He kneeled before the king.
  • Está bajo sospecha. - She is under suspicion.
  • Fui con mi amiga. - I went with my friend.
  • Jugamos contra ustedes. - We play against you.
  • Mi amigo es de España. - My friend is from Spain.
  • Viajaron desde Japón. - They travelled from Japan.
  • Sucedió durante la fiesta. - It happened during the party.
  • Estoy en casa. - I'm at home.
  • Está entre esos dos libros. - It is between those two books.
  • Estoy caminando hacia ti. - I am walking toward you.
  • No llega hasta mañana. - It won't arrive until tomorrow.
  • Me expreso mediante la pintura. - I express myself through painting.
  • Usa la cuchara para comer. - Use the spoon to eat.
  • El tren pasa por mi barrio. - The train goes by my neighborhood.
  • Según la profesora, eso no está bien. - According to the teacher, that's wrong.
  • Tomo el té sin azúcar. - I drink my tea with no sugar.
  • El libro está sobre la mesa. - The book is on the table.
  • Está tras el armario. - It is behind the closet.
  • Viajamos a Miami vía Panamá. - We travelled to Miami via Panama.

Let's take a closer look at some of these prepositions.

A

This is one of the most common prepositions in Spanish, and it has many uses. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Introducing the indirect object:
    • Le di el regalo a mi hermana. - I gave the gift to my sister.
  • Introducing the direct object in some cases, like when it is a person or a pet:
    • Amo a mi perro. - I love my dog.
  • Introducing a destination or a term or time period:
    • Viajaremos a México. - We will travel to Mexico.
    • Se vence a principios de enero. - It expires at the beginning of January.
  • Indicating a direction or orientation:
    • La ventana da al este. - The window faces east.
  • Introducing a timepoint:
    • Llego a las ocho. - I arrive at eight.
  • Indicating purpose:
    • Viene a estudiar. - She is coming to study.
  • Introducing a way of doing something:
    • Cena a la italiana. - Dinner the Italian way.

As you can see in La ventana da al este, when followed by the article el, the preposition a forms a contraction with that article and becomes al.

De

Together with a, de is the most common Spanish preposition. Here are some of its most common uses:

  • Introducing something or someone's origin (especially geographical origin):
    • Soy de los Estados Unidos. - I'm from the United States.
  • Indicating possession:
    • El auto de mi padre. - My father's car.
    • El director de la escuela. - The school's principal.
  • Indicating something's content or the materials it is made of:
    • Una taza de té. - A cup of tea.
    • Una taza de vidrio. - A glass cup.
  • Indicating something's purpose:
    • Un vestido de fiesta. - A party dress.

Just like a, de forms a contraction with the article el. When followed by it, it becomes del.

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En

This preposition is usually used to introduce relationships of time or space:

  • Introducing a location:
    • El vaso está en la mesa. - The glass is on the table.
    • Nací en Canadá - I was born in Canada.
  • Introducing a point in time:
    • El festival es en primavera. - The festival is in spring.
    • Nací en 1960. - I was born in 1960.
  • Indicating the outcome of a process:
    • Se convirtió en mi mejor amigo - He became my best friend.
  • Acting as "over the course of":
    • Me gradué en cuatro años. - I graduated in four years.
  • Indicating how long something will take to finish:
    • Se cocina en 10 minutos - It cooks in 10 minutes.

Para

Below you will find some of the most common uses of para:

  • Introducing a destination:
    • Nos vamos para Uruguay. - We are leaving for Uruguay.
  • Indicating a purpose:
    • Estudio para aprender. - I study to learn.
  • Indicating something's use:
    • Silla para bebé. - Baby chair.
  • Introducing the recipient of something:
    • Este regalo es para ti. - This present is for you.

Por

Por is often mistaken with para by English-speakers, let's look at some of its uses to try to see the differences between them:

  • Indicating something's means or path:
    • Viajamos por avión. - We travelled by plane.
    • Caminamos por las vías del tren. - We walked down the rail tracks.
  • Indicating something's approximate location in time or space:
    • Vivo por tu barrio. - I live around your neighborhood.
    • Su cumpleaños es por abril. - Her birthday is around April.
  • Introducing the channel through which something is sent or transmitted:
    • Hablamos por teléfono. - We talked on the phone.
  • Introducing the value something is sold or bought for:
    • Lo compré por tres dólares. - I bought it for three dollars.
  • Indicating something you are after:
    • Fue por fruta al mercado. - He went to the market to get fruit.
  • Indicating the motivation behind something:
    • Lo hago por mi madre. - I do it for my mother.

The world of prepositions is quite complex, and these are just a few of their uses. Pay attention to prepositions when you read texts in Spanish so you can see them in action and get a real feel of how they work.