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

What Are Prepositions of Place?

Prepositions of place help us talk about a specific location or position. In other words, we can use them to say where someone or something is. Read the article to get to know them.

Types of Prepositions of Place

According to their meaning, we can classify the prepositions of place into five groups:

Prepositions used to show Location

These prepositions (on, at, in) are the most common prepositions of place in English. Each of them is used to show the location or position of something or someone seen as a point.

At

'At' is used to talk about a specific place or location. Some examples of its uses can be:

  • addresses
  • events
  • public places where we get treatments or services
  • buildings such as institutions, companies, …

Take a look at some examples:

The university is at 98 Roosevelt Street.

address

I was at a birthday party.

event

See you at the dentist's office.

public place

I had a meeting with Mary's teacher at school.

building

In

We use 'in' to talk about a specific area within a general space. This preposition is mostly used for:

  • locations in relation to a larger area
  • a car

Take a look at some examples:

The baby is sleeping in her room.

locations in relation to a larger area

I will wait for you in the car.

Warning

We can use both 'in' and 'at' for locations in a building. When we use 'in' we are saying that the location is inside the enclosed space of the building. But 'at' does not show the specific location. For example:

See you in school.

inside the building

See you at school.

On

We should know that 'on' has two different meanings. When 'on' is used to show the location, it is often used for:

  • a floor in a building
  • showing that something is on a horizontal surface
  • public transport
  • roads, streets, rivers, oceans, and lakes
  • something is physically attached or joined to something else

Take a look at some examples:

The boss's office is on the 7th floor.

Please hang the painting on the wall behind the sofa.

a horizontal surface

We enjoy going on a trip on the train.

They spent the weekend sailing on the rolling sea.

She was staring at the ring on her finger.

physically attached

Tip

As you might have guessed, we use 'at' to show a general location. Using the preposition 'on' shows a more specific location. Look at these two examples:

She’s at the beach.

She may be at a shop on the beach or in the water.

She’s on the beach.

She is actually on the sand.

Prepositions used to show Horizontal Position

Horizontal prepositions are used to show the position of something in a horizontal line. We can arrange them from the highest position to the lowest position. Let us go through these prepositions one by one.

  • Above
  • Over
  • On
  • Under
  • Beneath
  • Below

Above

'Above' is used to show that something is much higher than another thing. For example:

The birds were flying above the clouds.

Over

prepositions of direction and place

'Over' is used to show that something is at a higher level than something else. It also shows that something covers or touches something else. For example:

Mom kept the umbrella over our heads.

Her mother put a blanket over her.

On

As we mentioned before, on has two meanings. When ‘on’ is used as a horizontal proposition, it shows physical contact with a vertical surface.

The candles are on the table.

Under

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

There are no monsters under the bed, Johnny!

Beneath

prepositions of direction and place

We use 'beneath' to show a lower level. For example:

The shop is right beneath the apartment.

Below

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

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

In the list below you can see some other examples of Prepositions used to show Horizontal Position:

  • Underneath
  • On top of

Prepositions used to show Distance

This type of preposition is also called the preposition of proximity. They show how close someone or something is to another person or thing.

Near

using the preposition 'near' to talk about distance

'Near' is used to show a short distance from something or someone else. For example:

The parking lot is near the shopping center.

Don't go near the edge.

If you swim near the bottom, you can see the coral reefs.

Beside, Next to, and By

These three prepositions are used to show that someone or something is near another thing or person. They are similar in meaning, however, there is a slight difference between them. 'Beside' shows that there is no space between two things. Also, it is not very common to use 'beside' with things that don’t have sides.

The umbrella is beside that chair.

There is no space between the chair and the umbrella.

'Next to' shows that there is nothing between the two objects or persons, although there might be space.

The umbrella is next to that chair.

There is nothing between the umbrella and the chair.

'By' means near, but not as near as 'beside'.

They're standing by the car.

Tip

Remember that 'beside', 'next to', 'by', and 'near', are prepositions of proximity but contrary to 'near', the other show that something is placed in a vertical position relative to another thing.

Beyond

Beyond shows a location further side of something. For example:

You can find the castle beyond the bridge.

In the list below you can see some other examples of distance-related prepositions:

  • Among
  • Between
  • Off

Prepositions used to show Direction

prepositions of directions

In this group, 'in front of' and 'behind' are used with something that has a front and back. 'Up' and 'down' are used with something that has a higher or lower position.

Up

As mentioned before, we use 'up' to show that something is located at a higher position. Look at the sentence below:

The church is just up the street.

Down

prepositions of direction and place

We use 'down' to show that something is located at a lower position. Look at the example:

Our school is just down the street.

In front of

This preposition shows a position in the front part of another thing. It also shows the position facing something or someone.

The car was parked in front of my house.

I get so nervous in front of the camera.

Behind

'Behind' is the opposite of 'in front of'. It shows the position at the back of something.

The sun hid behind the clouds.

In the list below, you can see some other examples of Prepositions used to show Direction:

  1. Before
  2. After
  3. Opposite

Prepositions used for Enclosed Area

By using this group of prepositions, we can show the position in relation to an enclosed area.

In

'In' is used to show the position inside an enclosed (or semi-enclosed) area. Look at the example:

There's some tea left in my mug.

Outside

‘Outside’ is used to show the position out of an enclosed (or semi-enclosed) area. Look at the example:

The fans were waiting outside the cinema.

In the list below, you can see some other examples of Prepositions used for Enclosed Area:

  • Within
  • Inside

Review

We use Prepositions of Place to show the location or position of someone or something. Based on their meaning we can put these prepositions into 5 groups:

  1. Prepositions used to show Location (on, at, in)
  2. Prepositions used to show Horizontal Position (above, over, below, under, on, beneath)
  3. Prepositions used to show Distance (near, beside, next to, by, beyond)
  4. Prepositions used to show Direction (up, down, in front of, behind)
  5. Prepositions used for Enclosed Area (in, within, inside, outside)

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