How to Use Prepositions in Spanish and Avoid Common Pitfalls

How to Use Prepositions in Spanish and Avoid Common Pitfalls

As your Spanish becomes more advanced, it becomes time to focus on smaller, nuanced aspects of Spanish grammar. Prepositions are vital to connecting pieces of sentences. If you’re ready to take your Spanish to the next level and explore advanced grammar concepts, continue reading about how to use prepositions. By the time you’re finished with this article, you’ll understand how to use prepositions correctly in Spanish and will be aware of common pitfalls to avoid in order to keep your Spanish sounding natural and effortless!

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What is a preposition?

The first thing you’ll need to know is what a preposition is. Many language learners use their native language naturally and don’t think about what each piece is called. A preposition, in both English and Spanish, is a word that shows a relationship between other words in a sentence. Prepositions commonly indicate location, time, direction, and manner. It’s important to understand prepositions to communicate accurately in Spanish.
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Location Prepositions in Spanish

Many prepositions have to do with location, describing the connection between a person or thing with another object. The verb estar is necessary to use location prepositions along with conjunctions. You should already know how to conjugate a verb if you’re worrying about these more advanced grammar concepts, so here are the conjugations for the verb estar in the present tense.

Pronoun Form of Estar
Yo Estoy
Él / Ella / Usted Está
Nosotros Estamos
Vosotros Estáis
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes Están

You can use a form of estar along with any of the following prepositions:

Spanish English
En In, at
Sobre On, over
Bajo Under, beneath
Delante de In front of
Detrás de Behind
Al lado de Next to, beside
Entre Between
Cerca de Near, close to
Lejos de Far from
Dentro de Inside
Fuera de Outside
Encima de On top of
Debajo de Below, underneath
A la derecha de To the right of
A la izquierda de To the left of
En el centro de In the center of
En medio de In the middle of
Alrededor de Around
A través de Through

Something to note is that whenever de is next to the word el, it is combined to make del. For example, the sentence Estoy delante de el teléfono (I’m in front of the phone.) would be written Estoy delante del teléfono. The same thing happens with a and el. They combine to form al.

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Temporal Prepositions in Spanish

Temporal prepositions can be used to refer to time. When dealing with this type of preposition, be careful not to translate literally from English. There are a few instances here where an English speaker may be tempted to literally translate to Spanish from English, but they would often fall trap to using the wrong preposition. For example, as you can see in the chart, the phrase a tiempo means “on time”. Knowing that the word en means “on”, an English speaker might be tempted to say “en tiempo” instead of a tiempo. Study the chart below to help you learn the temporal prepositions in Spanish.

Spanish English
Antes de Before
Después de After
Durante During
Desde Since, from
Hasta Until
En In, on, at (when referring to a specific time)
Por For, during (when talking about a duration)
A partir de Starting from
Entre Between (when referring to a range of time)
Hace Ago (used with past time expressions)
Desde hace For (used with present perfect tense)
Cada Each, every (when referring to a frequency)
En el futuro In the future
En el pasado In the past
A tiempo On time

Here are some example sentences for each.

  1. Antes de - Voy a estudiar antes de la cena. (I’m going to study before dinner.)

  2. Después de - Saldré a caminar después de almorzar. (I will go for a walk after lunch.)

  3. Durante - Durante la película, no hablamos. (During the movie, we don’t talk.)

  4. Desde - Trabajo desde las nueve de la mañana. (I work from nine in the morning.)

  5. Hasta - La tienda está abierta hasta las diez de la noche. (The store is open until ten at night.)

  6. En - Nos vemos en la fiesta. (We’ll see each other at the party.)

  7. Por - Estudié por dos horas. (I studied for two hours.)

  8. A partir de - A partir de mañana, comienzo mi nuevo trabajo. (Starting from tomorrow, I start my new job.)

  9. Entre - La reunión es entre las dos y las tres de la tarde. (The meeting is between two and three in the afternoon.)

  10. Hace - Me mudé a esta ciudad hace cinco años. (I moved to this city five years ago.)

  11. Desde hace - Estudio español desde hace tres años. (I have been studying Spanish for three years.)

  12. Cada - Voy al gimnasio cada mañana. (I go to the gym every morning.)

  13. En el futuro - En el futuro, quiero viajar por todo el mundo. (In the future, I want to travel all around the world.)

  14. En el pasado - En el pasado, esta ciudad era muy diferente. (In the past, this city was very different.)

  15. A tiempo - Llegué a tiempo para la reunión. (I arrived on time for the meeting.)

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Other Prepositions and Contractions in Spanish

In Spanish, there are other prepositions that don’t fall into the first two categories. Listed below are a few common ones you should know.

Spanish English
Con with
Sin without
Para for, in order to
Porque because of, due to
Según according to
A pesar de in spite of
Gracias a thanks to
Junto a next to, alongside
De acuerdo con in agreement with, according to
En contra de against
Además de besides, in addition to
Frente a in front of, facing
Fuera de outside of
Cerca de close to
Lejos de far from
Dentro de inside of
Sobre about
Bajo under

Some of the prepositions on this list are also time prepositions, however, they can be used when not related to time. For example, lejos de can be used in the phrase “lejos de la verdad” or “far from the truth,” which is not literally related to time. Remember to use the contractions “al” and “del” when combining a + el and de + el.

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Practice Prepositions in Spanish

Here are a few practice problems for you to test your knowledge of prepositions in Spanish. Translate the sentences!

  1. I meet you at the restaurant.
  2. She has been studying Spanish for two years.
  3. The book is on the table.
  4. They live near the beach.
  5. We go to the park after school.
  6. He arrives at the party on time.
  7. The cat is under the bed.
  8. They are in front of the TV.
  9. I eat dinner with you between 3 and 4 o’clock.
  10. We are against the proposal.

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Answers to Preposition Practice

Here are the answers to the practice problems. The preposition has been bolded. How did you do?

  1. Te encuentro en el restaurante.
  2. Hace dos años que ella estudia español.
  3. El libro está en la mesa.
  4. Ellos viven cerca de la playa.
  5. Vamos al parque después de la escuela.
  6. Él llega a la fiesta a tiempo.
  7. El gato está debajo de la cama.
  8. Ellos están delante del televisor.
  9. Yo ceno contigo entre las tres y las cuatro.
  10. Estamos en contra de la propuesta.

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Master Prepositions in Spanish

Mastering prepositions in Spanish is an important step in your language learning journey. Practice consistently, and embrace the complexity of this advanced grammar topic. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself expressing ideas more clearly and confidently in Spanish.