Prepositions of Place

Prepositions allow us to talk about the relationship between two words in a sentence. Here, we will discuss the different prepositions of place in English.

Prepositions of Place in English Grammar

Prepositions of place help us talk about a specific time and they describe where something happens in the present, the future or the past. English language has three main prepositions of place and some other prepositions of place. Let's get to know the main ones first:

  1. At
  2. On
  3. In

At

'At' is used to talk about a specific place or an exact position. Some examples of 'specific place' can be:

  • actual addresses
  • events
  • buildings where an event takes place
  • public places and shops

The university is at 98 Roosevelt Street.

I was at a birthday party.

On

The preposition 'on' is often used to describe:

  • a surface (flat surfaces, roads and streets) and (water, rivers, oceans, lakes)
  • an attachment

'On' is often used to describe a surface. For example:

I was mesmerized by that picture on the wall.

The candles are on the table.

If something is physically attached or joined to something else, then we use the preposition 'on'. For example:

She was staring at the ring on her finger.

In

'In' is used to talk about an enclosed space i.e. containers or spaces that are enclosed. Some examples of 'enclosed space' can be:

  • a large place with boundaries
  • towns or cities
  • a car
  • groups of people
  • liquids and other substances

There's a hole in my pocket!

There's some tea left in my mug,

I will wait for you in the office.

I live in Chicago.

Tip

The preposition 'At' is one-dimensional. It's like looking at a map. When we're looking at a map, we're referring to a specific place or position in space.

'On' is two-dimensional. We are referring to the position of something/someone in relation to that surface.

'In' is three-dimensional. When we use it, we need to think about the position of something/someone in relation to what surrounds it.

On the Corner, At the Corner or In the Corner?

We use 'in', when the corner is inside and 'on', when the corner is outside. We can also say 'at the corner' to refer to the corner of a street.

In the Office or at the Office?

'In' the office suggests that we are inside the office building. We're employees, we're working there.
'At' suggests that we're at the location of the office, but we could be inside a building or outside and we're not necessarily an employee either. We could be a customer visiting the office, for example.

at the Beach or on the Beach?

'At the beach' is the place. 'On the beach' means the sand.
But we can't use 'in'. 'In' is used with water surfaces.

Other Prepositions of Place

Now that we covered the three main prepositions, let's go through other prepositions of place in the English language, namely:

  • by
  • near
  • next to
  • beside
  • between
  • behind
  • in front of
  • under
  • below
  • over
  • above

By, Next to, Beside or Near

'By' is used to mean next to, beside or near something/someone. So, these prepositions are somewhat synonymous.

They're standing by the car.

Sit next to me.

The umbrella is beside that chair.

Between

'Between' as a preposition almost always comes with the word 'and'; i.e. 'between A and B'. It shows a limited space within two points in space.

He sat down between Allan and Kris.

This town lies between Bradford and Huddersfield.

Behind

'Behind' means 'at or towards the back of something'. If something is behind something else it is near to the back of it but not part of it.

The sun hid behind the clouds.

In Front of

'In front of' is a prepositional phrase that means further forward than something/someone, but not very far away. It also shows 'being in a position facing something/someone'.

The car was parked in front of my house.

I get so nervous in front of the camera.

Under

'Under' is a preposition that shows being in a position that is below something.

There's no monsters under the bed, Johnny!

The notebook is right there, under the table.

Below

'Below' as a preposition of place means at a lower level or position than something/someone.

Just below the surface of the water, the crocodile hid.

Over

'Over' as a preposition means 'above' or 'higher than something else', sometimes so that one thing covers the other. It can also mean 'across from one side to the other'.

We walked over the bridge.

Here in this example it means to walk 'across' the bridge.

Mom kept the umbrella over our heads.

Here in this example it means 'above' something.

Above

As a preposition, 'above' means 'at a higher place than something'. Above represents something at a place higher than another person or object. Over represents something that is directly upwards the another person or object.

The birds were flying above the clouds.

Tip

We use some prepositions to show the place or position of things in relation to other things. The prepositions that show the place of a noun or pronoun is called prepositions of place.
You shouldn't just guess the correct preposition. It's not possible, unless you're a really lucky person!
Also try avoiding translating them from your native language. This can cause lots of problems.

Review

A preposition of place is a preposition that is used to talk about a place where something or someone is located. There are three main prepositions of place that are numbered from 1 to 3. Also, you can see other prepositions of place in the following table.

1. at 2. on 3. in 4. by 5. near 6. next to 7. beside
8. between 9. behind 10. in front of 11. under 12. below 13. over 14. above

Here are some cases in which you use 'at' as a preposition of place.

at 1. actual addresses 3. buildings where an event takes place
2. events 4. public places and shops

Here are some cases in which you use 'on' as a preposition of place.

on 1. a surface (flat surfaces, roads and streets) and (water, rivers, oceans, lakes) 2. an attachment

Here are some cases we use 'in' as a preposition of place.

In 1. a large place with boundaries 2. towns or cities 3. a car 4. groups of people 5. liquids and other substances

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