Prepositions of Direction and Movement

As their names suggest, prepositions of direction and movement show a movement from one place to another or show a particular direction.

"Prepositions of Direction and Movement" in English Grammar

What Are Prepositions of Direction and Movement?

Prepositions of direction and movement are used to describe the movement of a person or object from one place to another. These prepositions always describe movement and we usually use them with verbs of motion. They are especially useful when giving directions, describing a location, or providing spatial orientation.

Prepositions of Direction and Movement: Types

Based on their meaning, prepositions of direction and movement can be classified into two groups:

  1. Prepositions that show the destination of a movement
  2. Prepositions that show movement relative to something else

Look at the examples:

The manager walked into the office.

In this example, the noun after the preposition ‘into’ shows the destination which is ‘the office’.

The manager walked around the office.

In this example, the noun after the preposition 'around' doesn't show the destination. It means that ‘the manager’ was already in the office and he moved throughout the office.

The following is a list of common prepositions of movement and direction:

Across, Along, Past

'Across' shows movement from one side to the other side of something.
'Along' or 'alongside' indicate movement from one point to the other point of something in a line.
'Past' indicates a movement to the further side of something.
Pay attention to the examples:

She walked across the street.

Driving across the desert was quite an adventure.

Joe and Molly walked along the street.

When Tom runs, his pet dog runs alongside him.

The bookstore is just past the pharmacy.

The police car drove right past us.

Around, Round

'Around' (or 'round', especially in British English) is a preposition that shows movement in or along a curved line, not straight and not going through it.

The children ran around the living room.

A big pile of clothes was on the floor so she had to walk around it.

Through

'Through' shows a movement into one side and out of the other side of something. For example

He got shot and the bullet went through him.

The train went through a tunnel.

Through vs. Across

'Through' suggests movement that passes from one side or end of an object or space to the other side or end, moving within the space. 'Across' suggests movement that goes over the surface of an object or space without necessarily moving within it.

Up and Down

using the preposition 'across' to show direction

'Up' shows being in or moving toward a higher position. It also means further along a street or a road.
'Down' is the opposite of 'up'. It indicates a movement to a lower position. It also means towards the direction in which you are facing.
Pay attention to the examples:

He pulled his socks up.

The church is just up the street.

We started running down the hill.

Our school is just down the street.

Into

'Into' is a preposition that shows a direction towards a position in or inside something. Here are some examples:

Mary walked into the house.

He jumped into the water.

In vs. Into

The difference between 'in' and 'into' lies in the indication of movement. 'Into' is used to describe the act of going or being moved to another location, suggesting movement towards the interior of a place or object. On the other hand, 'in' is used to describe where someone or something already is, suggesting that the subject is already located within a place or object.

Out of

'Out of' is the opposite of 'into'. When we want to indicate that something or someone is coming out of a place, we use 'out of'. Let us take a look at the following examples:

I'm out of here.

Jessica is coming out of the building right now.

Tip!

In American English, it is very common to use 'outta' instead of 'out of'. Bear in mind that it is only used in informal, spoken English.

Off

'Off' as a preposition, shows separation, removal, and disconnection. It indicates moving away from something. For example:

He bought an island off the coast of Florida.

Try not to fall off the ladder!

Onto

'Onto' is used to express movement into or on a particular place or position.

At the interjection, turn right onto the 5th Avenue.

We went onto the roof to fix the antenna.

Over

'Over' as a preposition can show a movement from one side of something to the other; It is somewhat synonymous with 'across'. For example:

Let's walk over that bridge.

I watched a bird fly over the river. It was beautiful.

Under

When we want to talk about something or someone that is in a lower position than something else, we can use 'under'. Take a look at the following examples:

I'm under the table, dad!

The basement is located under the first floor, ma'am.

Toward

'Toward' (or 'towards', especially in British English) shows a movement in the direction of something. For example:

I was walking toward the door when my phone rang.

The baby was pointing toward the little kitten.

To

'To' indicates a movement in the direction of something; it can be synonymous with 'toward'.
'To' and 'toward' both show direction or movement.

She walked to school.

On my way to the library, I stopped and got some cash from the ATM.

Away from

Normally, when we want to show the movement in the opposite direction of someone or something, we can use 'away from'. Study the following examples carefully:

Take this cockroach away from me.

She drove away from her house quickly.

Review

As you know, prepositions of directions and movements are used to talk about how things are placed or how they move from one place to another. We gathered all of them at the table so that we can learn them easily.

1. across 5. around 9. off 12. past
2. through 6. down/ up 10. onto 13. toward
3. along 7. into 10.over 14. to
4. away from 8. out of 11.under

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