Introduction to Spanish Prepositions

They function much as in English

kissing under the mistletoe
La mujer está bajo el muérdago. (The woman is under the mistletoe.). Betsie Van Der Meer/Getty Images

On the one hand, prepositions in Spanish are easy to understand, because they usually function in almost the same way as they do in English. On the other, prepositions are one of the most challenging aspects of using Spanish, because it is not always easy to remember one to use. A simple and very common preposition such as en can be translated not only as "in," the most common translation, but also as "to," "by," and "about," among others.

What Are Prepositions in Spanish?

A preposition is a type of word that is used to form a phrase; the phrase in turn functions as an adjective or adverb. In both English and Spanish, a preposition is followed by an object, which is a noun or a word that functions as a noun. (Sometimes in English a preposition can appear at the end of a sentence, but that can't be done in Spanish.)

Let's look at a couple of sample sentences to see how the preposition relates its object to other parts of a sentence.

  • English: I (subject) am going (verb) to (preposition) the store (prepositional object).
  • Spanish: Yo (subject) voy (verb) a (preposition) la tienda (prepositional object).

In the above sentence the phrase "to the store" or a la tienda forms a phrase that functions as an adverb that complements the verb.

Here is an example of a prepositional phrase that functions as an adjective:

  • English: I (subject) see (verb) the shoe (direct object) under (preposition) the table (prepositional object).
  • Spanish: Yo (subject) veo (verb) el zapato (direct object) bajo (preposition) la mesa (prepositional object).

Common Spanish Prepositions

Like English, Spanish has a few dozen prepositions. The following list shows the most common ones along with some of the most common meanings and some short sample sentences. A preposition that consists of two words is sometimes known as a compound preposition.

a — to, at, by means of.

  • Vamos a la ciudad. (We are going to the city.)
  • Vengo a las tres. (I am coming at 3.)
  • Viajamos a pie. We are traveling by foot.

antes de — before.

  • Leo antes de dormirme. (I read before going to sleep.)

bajo — under, underneath.

  • El perro está bajo la mesa. (The dog is under the table.)

cerca de — near.

  • El perro está cerca de la mesa. (The dog is near the table.)

con — with.

  • Voy con él. (I am going with him.)
  • Me gustaría queso con la hamburguesa. (I would like cheese with the hamburger.)

contra — against.

  • Estoy contra la huelga. (I am against the strike.)

de — of, from, indicating possession.

  • El sombrero es hecho de papel. The hat is made of paper.
  • Soy de Nueva York. (I'm from New York.)
  • Prefiero el carro de Juan. (I prefer Juan's car. I prefer the car of Juan.)

delante de — in front of.

  • Mi carro está delante de la casa. (My car is in front of the house.)

dentro de — inside, inside of.

  • El perro está dentro de la jaula. (The dog is inside the cage.)

desde — since, from.

  • No comí desde ayer. (I haven't eaten since yesterday.)
  • Tiró el béisbol desde la ventana. He threw the baseball from the window.

después de — after.

  • Comemos después de la clase. (We are eating after class.)

detrás de — behind.

  • El perro está detrás de la mesa. (The dog is behind the table.)

durante — during.

  • Dormimos durante la clase. (We slept during the class.)

en — in, on.

  • Ella está en Nueva York. (She is in New York.)
  • El perro está en la mesa. (The dog is on the table.)

encima de — on top of.

  • El gato está encima de la casa. (The cat is on top of the house.)

enfrente de — in front of.

  • El perro está enfrente de la mesa. (The dog is in front of the table.)

entre — between, among.

  • El perro está entre la mesa y el sofá. (The dog is between the table and the sofa.)
  • Andemos entre los árboles. (Let's walk among the trees.)

fuera de — outside, outside of.

  • El perro está fuera de la casa. (The dog is outside of the house.)

hacia — toward.

  • Caminamos hacia la escuela. (We are walking toward the school.)

hasta — until, as far has.

  • Duermo hasta las seis. (I'm sleeping until 6.)
  • Viajamos hasta la ciudad. (We are traveling as far as the city.)

para — for, in order to.

  • El regalo es para usted. (The gift is for you.)
  • Trabajo para ser rico. (I work in order to be rich.)

por — for, by, per.

  • Damos gracias por la comida. (We give thanks for the meal.)
  • Fue escrito por Juan. (It was written by Juan.)
  • El peso cotiza a 19.1 por dólar. (The peso is quoted at 19.1 per dollar.)

según — according to.

  • Según mi madre va a nevar. (According to my mother it is going to snow.)

sin — without.

  • Voy sin él. (I am going without him.)

sobre — over, about (in the sense of concerning).

  • Se cayó sobre la silla. (He fell over the chair.)
  • Es un programa sobre el presidente. (It's a program about the president.)

tras — after, behind.

  • Caminaban uno tras otro. (They walked one after the other. They walked one behind the other.)