The Ultimate Guide to Spanish Prepositions
Spanish prepositions are everywhere and we use them all the time—whether we realize it or not.
Prepositions are like the glue that holds language together. They allow us to connect words and express a lot of different ideas. Many prepositions you use in the languages you speak might go unnoticed, but it’s time to correct that!
Today, you’ll learn all there is to know about Spanish prepositions, what you can do with them, how to use them correctly, and how many of them exist in the Spanish language.
What’s a Preposition?
Prepositions are useful words that exist in many different languages, Oxford Languages defines them as
“Unchanging words used to establish a dependency relationship between two or more words; the one that follows the preposition functions as the object; the type of relationship that is established depends on the preposition.”
In other words, they are words that serve to connect two elements of a sentence—usually nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs.
Prepositions also give you information about place, time, manner, or reason.
Spanish prepositions are considered one of the hardest-to-master grammar concepts in the language, but that’s mostly due to the wide variety of them available in Spanish.
A good thing about Spanish prepositions is that they never change, because they don’t have gender or number. This means that you don’t have to worry about conjugating them.
In Spanish, there are 23 prepositions and other prepositional phrases. A good way to approach them is by learning three of them at a time and keep adding prepositions to your Spanish vocabulary little by little.
23 Spanish Prepositions
Currently, the Spanish Royal Academy of the Language (RAE) accepts a total of 23 prepositions in existence. This number was set just in 2009 when the RAE introduced four “new” Spanish prepositions to the list: durante, mediante, versus, and vía.
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Let’s analyze them one by one, including a meaning definition, an explanation about how to use them, and a few examples:
Translation: to, at
You can use it to express time, introduce an indirect object, give an order or to indicate manner and motion. You can also connect a conjugated form of the verb ir (to go) to an infinitive.
Miguel vino a comer conmigo.
Miguel came to have lunch with me.
Vamos a mi casa.
Let’s go to my house.
Tu cita es a las 4:00 pm.
Your appointment is at 4:00 pm.
If the preposition a appears before the definite article el, it becomes al. For example, the sentence Fui a el salón becomes Fui al salón (I went to the classroom).
Translation: before, in front, due
You can use ante to express that you are in the presence of or in front of something or someone.
Ante esta crisis, lo mejor será cerrar la empresa.
Due to this crisis, the best thing to do is to close the company.
Se presentó ante los medios.
He was presented before the media.
One of the Spanish prepositions that expresses place, but also denotes subordination and dependence.
El Departamento de Español está bajo mi cargo.
The Spanish Department is under my supervision.
La pelota está bajo la cama.
The ball is under the bed.
Translation: beside, next to, close to
Cabe is one of the less used Spanish prepositions nowadays. You may find it in poetic language, but hard to hear it in everyday Spanish.
Nos sentamos cabe la orilla del mar.
We sat close to the sea.
La tienda está cabe la oficina de correos.
The store is next to the post office.
It can express the instrument used to do something, the circumstances surrounding an action, or something that goes together or in company of.
Lo hizo con sus propias manos.
He did it with his own hands.
Aprendí español con mucho esfuerzo.
I learned Spanish with a lot of effort.
Me gusta jugar fútbol con mis amigos.
I like playing football with my friends.
Contra can be used to express being opposed to something or to be physically against something.
Mi postura es contra las corridas de toros, no contra las personas.
My position is against bullfighting, not against the people.
Estoy contra la pared.
I’m against the wall.
Translation: from, of, with
De is one of the most common Spanish prepositions and it expresses possession, point of origin, part of something, and what something is made of.
Este libro es de mi hermana.
This book is my sister’s.
Vengo de otra ciudad.
I come from another city.
Es un barco de papel.
It’s a paper boat.
Translation: from, since
It refers to a specific point in time or a specific place.
Vine caminando desde mi casa.
I came walking all the way from my house.
No he comido nada desde la mañana.
I haven’t eaten anything since this morning.
One of the most recent additions to the list of Spanish prepositions, durante expresses simultaneity.
El festival se celebró durante el verano.
The festival took place during the summer.
Hice la tarea durante el recreo.
I did my homework during recess.
Translation: in, on, at
En indicates location and time (just not hours or days of the week). It also indicates what someone does.
Nos veremos en navidad.
We’ll meet on Christmas.
Estamos en el jardín.
We’re in the garden.
Laura es experta en medicina alternativa.
Laura is an expert in alternative medicine.
Translation: between, among
Use it to express an intermediate state, when something is between or among other things, and cooperation between two or more people.
Pon el jamón entre los dos pedazos de pan.
Place the ham between the two pieces of bread.
Entre el fútbol y el basquetbol, prefiero el fútbol.
Between football and basketball, I prefer football.
El proyecto lo terminaron entre Jorge y Carlos.
The project was finished between Jorge and Carlos.
Translation: toward, to
Expresses which way something or someone is moving to.
Nos dirigimos hacia el centro de la ciudad.
We’re going towards downtown.
¿Hacia dónde va este autobús?
Where is this bus heading to?
Translation: up to, until
Spanish prepositions are useful to express many different things. In this case, hasta indicates the idea of limit.
Esperaré aquí hasta que lleguen.
I’ll wait here until they arrive.
Podemos gastar hasta mil dólares.
We can spend up to a thousand dollars.
One more of the recent additions to the Spanish prepositions list. Mediante expresses how something is done.
El pago se hará mediante transferencia electrónica.
The pay will be done through electronic transfer.
Translation: for, to
Indicates purpose and destination, as well as deadlines.
La tarea es para el próximo martes.
The homework is for next Tuesday.
El regalo es para mi mamá.
The present is for my mom.
Necesitarás un coche para llegar ahí.
You’ll need a car to get there.
Translation: for, because of
Use por to express cause, time, place, and gratitude.
Estoy feliz por ti.
I’m happy for you.
Rompiste el vaso por no tener cuidado.
You broke the glass by not being careful.
Gracias por todo.
Thank you for everything.
Translation: according to
You can use según before pronouns or names, to express what other people or institutions think or say.
Según el diccionario de Oxford, las preposiciones conectan palabras.
According to Oxford dictionary, prepositions connect words.
Según Erika, el examen está muy fácil.
According to Erika, the test is very easy.
Among Spanish prepositions you can find ways to express opposite ideas such as con and sin, or with and without.
No me gusta salir sin mi abrigo.
I don’t like going out without my coat.
Es difícil llegar a Madrid sin dinero.
It’s hard to arrive in Madrid without any money.
Just like cabe, so is one of the less used Spanish prepositions. In old Spanish it meant “under” but nobody uses it in that sense any more. These days it’s only used as part of fixed expressions such as:
so pena de
under the threat of
so pretexto de
under the pretext of
Translation: on, over, about
Use sobre to express location or denote what something is about.
Este libro es sobre la historia de Guatemala.
This book is about the history of Guatemala.
La computadora está sobre la mesa.
The computer is on the table.
Translation: after, behind
You can use tras to express time (after) and place (behind).
Tras discutirlo con calma, llegamos a un acuerdo.
After discussing it calmly, we came to an agreement.
El cine está tras la tienda.
The movies are behind the store.
One of the recently added Spanish prepositions, versus expresses opposition.
Mañana juega el Real Madrid versus Barcelona.
Tomorrow Real Madrid versus Barcelona plays.
Translation: through, by
Use via to say how you’re sending or receiving something, or to express the route you’re taking.
Te lo envié por vía aérea.
I sent it to you by air mail.
Volé a España vía Estados Unidos.
I flew to Spain through the United States.
Besides the 23 Spanish prepositions, we have other prepositional phrases that work just like prepositions but are formed by more than one word.
Some of the most common prepositional phrases in Spanish are
alrededor de – around
encima de – on, above
debajo de – under
enfrente de – in front of
delante de – before, in front of
detrás de – behind
fuera de – outside of
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