Confusing Preposition Pairs in English

Learn the differences between these commonly confused prepositions

Hispanic woman removing book from shelf
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Confusing preposition pairs in English is one of the most common mistakes for ESL students. To help you avoid this mistake, review some of the most commonly confused pairs of prepositions below. 

In / Into 

The key difference between 'in' and 'into' is that 'in' indicates a state of being, whereas 'into' indicates motion. For example, 'into' is often used to describe the movement of something from outdoors to indoors, such as in the sentence, "I walked into the house."  By contrast, 'in' is used when a thing or person is stationary.

For example, "I found the book in the drawer."

Examples

Jack drove his car into the garage.
My friend lives in that house.
The teacher came quickly into the room and began the lesson.
The dishes are in that cupboard.
 

On / Onto

Similar to 'into' and 'in', 'onto' indicates motion where 'on' does not. 'Onto' normally indicates that something is placed onto something else. For example, "I put the dishes onto the table when I set it." 'On' shows that something already rests on a surface. For example, "The picture is hanging on the wall." 

Examples

I carefully placed the picture onto the wall.
He put the book onto the desk.
You can find the dictionary on the table.
That's a beautiful picture on the wall.

Among / Between 

'Among' and 'between' are almost exactly the same in meaning. However, 'between' is used when something is placed between two objects. 'Among', on the other hand, is used when something is placed among many objects.

Examples

Tom is between Mary and Helen in that picture.
You'll find the letter among the papers on the table.
Seattle is located between Vancouver, Canada and Portland, Oregon.
Alice is among friends this weekend.

Beside / Besides

'Beside' - without an s- means 'next to'. For example, "Tom is seated beside Alice." In contrast, 'Besides' - with an 's' - states that something is in addition to something else.

For example, "Besides math, Peter is getting an A in history."

Examples

Hang your coat beside mine over there.
There is so much work to do besides the normal tasks. 
Come sit down beside me.
Besides potatoes, we need some milk.

 

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Beare, Kenneth. "Confusing Preposition Pairs in English." ThoughtCo, Aug. 14, 2017, thoughtco.com/confusing-preposition-pairs-1211258. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, August 14). Confusing Preposition Pairs in English. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/confusing-preposition-pairs-1211258 Beare, Kenneth. "Confusing Preposition Pairs in English." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/confusing-preposition-pairs-1211258 (accessed November 18, 2017).