Common Spanish Prepositions

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What are Prepositions?

Prepositions within the Spanish language are words which connect either a noun, adjective or verb to the object of the preposition, which is usually a noun or pronoun. More specifically, it describes a relationship between the two parts of a sentence and this relationship usually refers to things like movement, location, direction or time.

Within the study of language, prepositions are notoriously tricky, because there are no simple solutions. Instead, they must be learned, understood and memorised individually. With Spanish, this can be made somewhat less daunting by dividing them into two distinct groups: simple prepositions and compound prepositions.

Simple Prepositions

 a  to, at  Ellos viajaron a francia  They travelled to France
 con  with, to  Ven con nosotros  Come with us
 de  of, from, about  Capital de España

Ella es de Madrid

 Capital of Spain

She is from Madrid

 en  in, on, at, by  En un minuto

Viajo en coche

 In a minute

I travel by car

 hacia  towards, to  Corrió hacia mí  He ran towards me
 para  for  Tengo dinero para pagar la  cena  I have money to pay for  dinner
 por  for  Intercambié el pan por la leche  I exchanged the bread for the  milk
 sin  without  Té sin azúcar  Tea without sugar


Compound Prepositions

antes de prior to, before Antes de 1980 Before 1980
con respecto a with respect to Con respecto al anuncio de empleo With respect to the job advert
debajo de underneath Debajo de la mesa Underneath the table
delante de in front of, before Delante de la chimenea In front of the fireplace
Fuera de Outside of Quiero viajar fuera de Europa I want to travel outside of Europe
Lejos de far from Estaba lejos de casa I was far from home

The Importance of Learning Spanish Prepositions

Taking the time to learn the different Spanish prepositions is incredibly important, because they allow Spanish speakers to construct sentences properly. Moreover, prepositions are utilised all the time; in fact, the prepositions "a" and "de" rank as two of the most frequently used Spanish words of all.

One of the keys to understanding Spanish prepositions is to come to terms with the fact that they do not work in the exact same way as English prepositions, so they cannot be substituted one-for-one. It is, therefore, impossible to become fluent in Spanish without truly getting to grips with these words and their functions.

Common Mistakes with Spanish Prepositions

Like with most other languages, Spanish prepositions do not correlate directly with English prepositions. Yet, one of the most common mistakes made by Spanish language students is to simply carry out a one-for-one translation, resulting in incorrect preposition usage or placement.

In terms of getting prepositions mixed up, a frequently encountered problem involves the Spanish words “para” and “por”, which both roughly translate to the English word “for”, but have different uses. The rule here is that “para” refers to destination or purpose, while “por” refers to cause or motion.

Furthermore, the Spanish language does not have postpositions, which function in a similar way to prepositions, but are placed after the object. As a result, when translating a postposition from English to Spanish, the word becomes a preposition, occasionally resulting in a word order that may seem unusual to an English speaker.