The Most Common Spanish Prepositions And How To Use Them

Prepositions, like the relationships they describe, can be complicated.
Spanish prepositions represented by two young people sitting on and outdoor bench and chatting.

Prepositions probably aren’t the first part of speech you think of when learning a new language. The first few lessons focus on nouns and verbs, because they’re the most basic building blocks. Tackling your Spanish prepositions early on is a good idea, however, as they can easily trip you up.

Prepositions, on the most basic level, are used to describe the relationship between two or more things. The reason why they’re difficult in a new language is usually because their translations don’t match up exactly. One preposition in English might have two possible translations in Spanish, and vice versa. Here, we’ll cover the most important Spanish prepositions and how they’re most commonly used. You’ll likely encounter more on your learning journey, but knowing these will prepare you for what comes your way.

The Most Common Spanish Prepositions

Some of the simplest Spanish prepositions are also the most complicated to learn. They pop up in a lot of different situations, and the only way to really “get it” is to spend time memorizing their various uses.

a (to, at, for)

Most often, a is equivalent to the English “to,” as in when you’re talking about a destination (“She went to the park”). It’s also used when talking about time, in which case it stands in for the English “at.” You’ll also see a before the indirect object of a sentence, where it will let you know who an action is “for.”

When a appears before the masculine article el, they combine to form al.

  • Ella va a la oficina. — She’s going to the office.
  • La película es a la una. — The movie is at one.
  • Le di un regalo a mi hermana. — I gave a gift to my sister.

de (of, from)

Most often, de will be used to mean “of.” Other important uses of the word de include talking about where someone is from and talking about ownership.

Like a, if de is followed by the article el, they’ll combine to form del. You’ll also notice that “de” is part of many other prepositions in Spanish.

  • Es el primer día del mes. — It’s the first day of the month.
  • Quiero dos de las manzanas. — I want two of the apples.
  • Soy de España. — I’m from Spain.
  • Esos son los libros de Juan. — Those are Juan’s books.

en (in, into, at)

The preposition en will almost always be the equivalent of the English “in,” whether it be referring to a location (“She was in the garden.”), a manner of behavior (“She was behaving in a strange way.”) or time (“We’re leaving in two minutes.”). It can also be the Spanish translation of “into” or “at.” 

  • El perro está en el coche. — The dog is in the car.
  • Salimos en una hora. — We leave in an hour.
  • Entra en la casa. — Go into the house.
  • Estoy en el centro comercial. — I’m at the mall.

para, por (for, to, because of, in, on)

Para and por are grouped together because they’re both usually translated to the same English preposition: “for.” And yet, they do a lot more than just that, and it’s one of the most important distinctions for early Spanish learners to figure out.

You use the word por when you’re talking about reasons for actions (“I did this because of that”), prices (“We bought it for $5”), time (“I’m tired in the morning”) and sometimes to indicate how something is done (“I talked to her on Zoom”).

  • Por tu demora vamos a llegar tarde.Because of your delay, we’re going to arrive late.
  • Lo compraron por poco dinero. — They bought it for little money.
  • ¿No ves televisión por la mañana? — You don’t watch television in the morning?
  • Te llamé por teléfono. — I called you on the telephone.

You use the word para when you’re talking about a goal (“I did that to impress you”), a recipient (“This is for you”) or a destination (“They went to Florida.”)

  • Necesito gafas para ver mejor. — I need glasses to see better.
  • Esto es para tu hermana. — This is for your sister.
  • Vamos para Madrid. — We’re going to Madrid.

sobre (about, on, over)

The word sobre is another preposition that can be used in a few different ways. Its most common English equivalent is “about,” like when you’re saying “The book is about the ocean.” When talking about location, sobre means either that something is “on” something else (“The book is on the shelf”) or “over” something else (“The chandelier is over the ballroom”).

  • La película trata sobre el chocolate. — The movie is about chocolate.
  • El gato está sobre la mesa. — The cat is on the table.
  • La luna está sobre la playa. — The moon is over the beach.

More Spanish Prepositions

The rest of the Spanish prepositions we have for you should be a little easier because they have more specific meanings.

al lado de (next to, beside)

Because lado means “side,” this preposition translates literally to “to the side of.” It can also be translated to “next to,” “beside” or any other English preposition that means something is to the side of something else.

  • La biblioteca está al lado de la pizzería. — The library is next to the pizza parlor.
  • Ella está caminando al lado de su marido. — She’s walking beside her husband.

bajo, debajo de (below, under, underneath)

Both bajo and debajo de mean “under” and can be used interchangeably. More rarely, you may also see abajo de used to mean the same thing (though it may seem incorrect to some Spanish speakers). The word bajo can also be used to refer to someone’s leadership, as in “I work under my boss.” (Trabajo bajo mi jefa.)

  • El gato está bajo la mesa. — The cat is under the table.
  • El libro está debajo del control remoto. — The book is under the remote.
  • Los precios de la gasolina subieron bajo la presidencia de Bush. — Gas prices went up under President Bush.

con (with)

The word con is used in pretty much every situation you would use “with.” 

  • Ella fue con su madre. — She went with her mother.
  • Quiero una hamburguesa con papas fritas. — I want a hamburger with fries.

contra (against)

As you might guess, contra is kind of the opposite of con, and is used wherever “against” would be in English.

  • Ellos están trabajando contra nosotros. — They’re working against us.
  • Ella está apoyada contra la puerta. — She’s leaning against the door.

delante de, enfrente de, frente a, ante (in front of, across from, opposite, before)

There are subtle differences between these four prepositions, but all of them can be used to mean “in front of,” “across from” or “opposite.” 

  • Ve delante de mí. — Go in front of me.
  • La tienda está enfrente del gimnasio. — The shop is opposite the gym.
  • El gato está frente a la casa. — The cat is in front of the house.
  • Estoy aquí ante ti. — I stand here before you.

dentro de (inside, within)

The prepositional phrase dentro de generally means “inside” or “within,” whether that be physically (“The man is inside the house”) or metaphorically (“The topic is within my expertise.”).

  • El pájaro está dentro de su jaula. — The bird is inside its cage.
  • Mantenga esto dentro del grupo. — Keep this within the group.

detrás de (behind)

As a complement to delante de, we have detrás de, which means “behind.” You might hear the word tras used, too, but it’s somewhat rare.

  • El jugo de naranja está detrás de la leche. — The orange juice is behind the milk.
  • Camina detrás de mí. — Walk behind me.

desde (from, since)

The word desde has two primary meanings, depending on the context. When you’re talking about time, it means “since.” When you’re talking about locations, desde means “from,” as in “I walked from the park.” If you want to talk about someone’s place of origin — as in “I’m from the United States” — you would use de instead.

  • No he dormido desde ayer. — I haven’t slept since yesterday.
  • Condujo su coche desde la ciudad. — She drove her car from the city.

encima de (on top of, above)

One of the more straightforward prepositions, encima de is used to talk about an object that is on top of or over something else.

  • El sombrero está encima de tu cabeza. — The hat is on top of your head.
  • Mi apartamento está encima del bar. — My apartment is above the bar.

entre (between, among)

The word entre generally means “between,” both when talking about location (“Stand between us.”) or time (“I can fit you in between my meetings.”).

  • Está allí entre sus padres. — He’s there between his parents.
  • El correo llega entre las 2 y las 3 de la tarde. — The mail comes between 2 and 3 in the afternoon.
  • Hay un traidor entre nosotros. — There’s a traitor among us.

fuera de (outside of)

Fuera de means “outside of” whether you’re talking about the location of something (“He’s outside of the store.”) or anything else (“I love all animals outside of cats.”).

  • Ella está fuera del parque. — She’s outside the park.
  • No he visto nada fuera de lo normal. — I haven’t seen anything outside of the ordinary.

hacia (toward, around)

When talking about direction and movement, hacia means “toward.” When talking about time, hacia means “around.”

  • Camina hacia el río. — Walk toward the river.
  • Comienza hacia las 7. — It starts around 7.

hasta (until)

When talking about either time (“How much longer until…”) or location (“How much further until…”), hasta means “until.”

  • No termina hasta las 11. — It’s not over until 11.
  • Conduzca hasta llegar a la intersección. — Drive until you reach the intersection.

según (according to)

The Spanish preposition según is used to identify the source of information, the same way “according to” does in English.

  • Según ese cartel, no puedes caminar aquí.According to that sign, you can’t walk here.
  • Está cerrado, según él. — It’s closed, according to him.

sin (without)

Whereas con means “with,sin means the opposite: “without.”

  • Caminé hasta allí sin problema. — I walked there without a problem.
  • Caminó hasta allí sin zapatos. — She walked there without her shoes on.
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