Spanish Prepositions: Easy to Understand, Complete Guide

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Spanish prepositions (in English words like in, of, on, through, to, underneath, without) - stand in front of nouns or pronouns and relate them in various ways to the rest of the sentence:

  • en España - in Spain
  • de Maria - of Maria
  • encima de la mesa - on (top of) the table, etc.

Prepositions can also stand in front of verbs: without looking, by shouting. In English the verb form used in this case is the -ing form, but in Spanish the form used is always the Infinitive:

  • sin ver without seeing
  • cansado de hablar tired of talking

Prepositions do not appear before a Gerund. A rare exception is en + Gerund, as in en llegando on arriving - but this construction is old-fashioned and is nowadays expressed by al + Infinitive, e.g. al llegar a Madrid on arriving in Madrid.

The prepositions a to and de of combine with the masculine singular Definite Article él to form al to the and del of the. No other combinations of these prepositions are used: compare a él to him and de él of him. The combined form is not used when the el is part of a proper name:

  • a El Ferrol to El Ferrol
  • de El Cairo from Cairo

Prepositional phrases consist of more than one word, of which one is always a preposition. They function like prepositions:

  • a causa de because of
  • detrás de behind

The more common of these are included with the simple prepositions in the lists that follow below.

ALPHABETICAL LIST OF SPANISH PREPOSITIONS AND THEIR USE

There are minor local variations between Spain and Latin America with respect to prepositional usage. These variations are more numerous in colloquial speech than in written language.

Prepositional usage is often dictated by apparently arbitrary rules and frequently does not correspond between languages: compare English to dream of someone, Spanish soñar con alguien (literally to dream with someone) or English to try to, Spanish tratar de (literally to try of).

Uses of the Spanish Preposition: a

When a means to (after words denoting motion or giving, sending, showing, beginning, etc.)

  • Vamos a Caracas. We’re going to Caracas.
  • Volaron a Roma. They flew to Rome.
  • Le dio cien dólares a su hijo. He gave 100 dollars to his son.
  • Envíe esta carta al Ministerio. Send this letter to the Ministry.
  • Voy a vería. I’m going to see her.
  • Empezó a llorar. He/she began to cry.
  • Un viaje a la luna. A journey to the moon.
  • Un homenaje al rey. A homage to the King.

When a means at

When it means towards:

  • Apuntaba al bianco. He was aiming at the target.
  • Tiraban piedras a la policía. They were throwing stones at the police.

When the English word at means in or close to a place, as in at the bus-stop, at the table, at Cambridge, the Spanish translation is en , although the following exceptions should be noted:

  • a la salida/entrada at the exit/entrance
  • a la mesa at the table
  • a mi espalda/derecha/izquierda at my back/right/left
  • a pie de página at the foot of the page

The use of a to mean at before numbers and in several set phrases:

  • a las seis at six o’clock
  • a las ocho y media at eight-thirty
  • a doscientos kilómetros por hora at 200 km per hour
  • a treinta kilómetros at a distance of thirty km
  • a los treinta años at the age of thirty
  • al mismo tiempo at the same time
  • al amanecer at dawn

When a means by or in the manner of

Here a is used in set phrases indicating the manner in which something is done:

  • a mano by hand
  • a pie on foot
  • a caballo on horseback
  • escribir a máquina to type
  • a empujones by pushing
  • arroz a la catalana rice cooked Catalan-style
  • vestido a la inglesa dressed in the English style

When a means in, in set phrases

  • al sol in the sun
  • a la sombra in the shade
  • a lo lejos in the distance

When a means on, in set phrases

  • a la derecha/izquierda on the right/left
  • a la llegada de on the arrival of
  • al día siguiente on the next day
  • al salir de casa on leaving home
  • estar a dieta to be on a diet

When a means onto after verbs of motion

  • El gato saltó a la mesa. The cat jumped onto the table.

When a means into after verbs of motion

  • Se tiró al agua. He dived into the water.
  • Entró corriendo al cuarto. He ran into the room. (Spain... en el cuarto.)

When a means after in set phrases

  • Se cansa a los dos minutos. He gets tired after two minutes.
  • a los dos días de hacerlo two days after doing it

When a means per

  • tres veces a la semana three times per/a week
  • cinco mil dólares al mes $5,000per/a month

When a means of or like, after words meaning taste, smell, sound like, look like

  • Sabe a ajo. It tastes of garlic.
  • Huele a pescado. It smells of fish.
  • un olor/sabor a vino a smell/taste of wine
  • Suena a mentira. It sounds like a lie.
  • Se parece a su madre. He looks like his mother.

When a means from, away from, off (after words meaning steal, take away from, buy, hear)

  • Le compró un coche a su hermano. He bought a car off his brother.
  • Les roban dinero a los turistas. They steal money from the tourists.
  • Se lo oí decir a Miguel. I heard it from Miguel.

Alphabetical List of Spanish Prepositional Phrases with a

  • a bordo de on board of
  • a cambio de in exchange for
  • a causa de because of:
  • a causa del ruido/calor because of the noise/heat
  • a costa de at the cost of
  • a diferencia de unlike
  • a diferencia de algunos de sus amigos unlike some of his friends
  • a espaldas de behind the back of
  • a excepción de with the exception of
  • a falta de for lack of/for want of
  • a favor de in favor of
  • a fin de with the aim of
  • a finales/a fines de towards the end of
  • a finales de junto towards the end of June
  • a fuerza de by dint of
  • a juicio de in the opinion of
  • a mediados de towards the middle of
  • a mediados de julio in mid-July
  • a modo de in the manner of
  • además de as well as
  • a la hora de at the moment of
  • a lo largo de throughout/along
  • a lo largo del río along (the length of) the river
  • a lo largo del siglo throughout the century
  • a partir de starting from
  • a partir de hoy from today
  • a partir de ahora from now on
  • a pesar de despite, in spite of
  • No me lo dio, a pesar de toda su generosidad. He didn’t give it to me, despite all his generosity.
  • a por (Spain only) same as por (q.v.) when the latter means in search of
  • Voy a por el médico I’m going for the doctor /to fetch the doctor
  • a principios de towards the beginning of
  • a prueba de proof
  • a prueba de bomba bomb-proof
  • a punto de on the verge of
  • Estaba a punto de decirlo. He was on the verge of saying it.
  • a raíz de (literary) immediately after/as an immediate result of
  • a raíz de la Guerra Civil immediately after the Civil War
  • a riesgo de at the risk of
  • a través de through/across
  • a través del llano across the plain
  • a vista de in the sight/presence of
  • a voluntad de at the discretion of
  • El servicio es a voluntad del cliente. The service charge is at the customer’s discretion.
  • acerca de about (=on the subject of)
  • Me preguntó qué pensaba acerca de todo eso. He asked me what I thought of/about all that.
  • además de as well as
  • al alcance de within reach of
  • al cabo de at the end of
  • al cabo de una semana after a week/at the end of a week
  • al contrario de contrary to
  • al corriente de informed about/up to date with
  • No estoy al contente de todo lo que ha pasado. I’m not up to date with everything that’s happened.
  • al estilo de in the style of
  • al frente de at the head/forefront of
  • al lado de next to
  • Se sentó al lado de su Jefe. He sat next to his boss.
  • al nivel de at the level of
  • al tanto de informed about/up to date with
  • alrededor de around
  • un viaje alrededor del mundo a Journey round the world
  • alrededor de mil around/about 1,000

Use of the Spanish preposition ante

When ante means in the presence of, faced with

  • ante este problema faced with this problem
  • ante el juez in the presence of/before the judge

In literary styles it may be an equivalent of delante de in front of (q.v.).

Use of antes in phrases

antes de - before (time):

  • Tienen que terminarlo antes de las doce. They’ve got to finish it before 12 o’clock.

antes que - rather than

Compare antes que rather than:

  • Cualquier cosa antes que tener que asistir a una de esas reuniones. Anything rather than have to go to one of those meetings.

Use of bajo - beneath, under

Debajo de (q.v.) is the usual Spanish translation of underneath, although bajo is used in literary language to mean our beneath with words like el ciélo sky, el sol sun, el techo roof: bajo un cielo azul beneath a sky of blue. Bajo is also required with social and political systems, with temperatures and in some set phrases:

  • debajo da la cama under the bed
  • bajo un régimen totalitario under a totalitarian regime
  • bajo cero below zero
  • bajo órdenes under orders
  • Estás bajo aviso You've been warned (Literally: You're under a warning)
  • bajo la condición de que... on condition that...

Use of cerca de - near

  • Vivo cerca del puente I live near the bridge

Use of Spanish preposition con

When con means with

The following special forms should be noted:

  1. con + mí = conmigo with me
  2. con + ti = contigo with you
  3. con + sí = consigo with himself/herself/yourself, with themselves/yourselves
  • Vine con mi tía. I came with my aunt.
  • con amor with love, lovingly
  • Vamos contigo. We’re going with you.
  • Lo abrió con el destornillador. He opened it with the screwdriver.
  • Es muy cariñoso con ellos. He's very affectionate with/towards them.
  • Está enojada (Spain enfadada) con usted. She's angry with you.

When con means despite

(same meaning as a pesar de):

  • Con todos sus esfuerzos, no lo consiguió. Despite all his efforts he didn't achieve It.
  • Con ser su amigo, no habla bien de él. Despite being his friend, he doesn't speak well of him.

Examples of con meaning if

After an Infinitive (this construction is not particularly common):

  • Con trabajar un poquito más, aprobará el examen. If he works a little more, hell pass the examination.

Examples of con meaning into, against, to

This is used when some idea of a collision or mutual encounter is involved:

  • El autobús chocó con (or contra) un árbol. The bus ran into a tree.
  • Me encontré con el jefe. I ran into/unexpectedly met the boss.
  • Se ve con ella todos los días. He sees/meets her everyday.
  • Yo me escribo con ella. I write to her regularly/correspond with her.

Examples of con meaning with... in

This occurs in phrases that mention the contents of some vessel or receptacle:

  • un camión con frutas a truck loaded with fruit
  • una botella con agua a bottle with water in it

Other propositional phrases using con

  • con motivo de on the occasion of
  • con motivo del quinto aniversario de... on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of
  • con objeto de with the object/intention of
  • con relación a in respect of/in relation to
  • con respecto a with respect/reference to/in comparison to

The spelling of the word él respeto respect (shown to someone) should be noted.

Uses of the Spanish preposition contra - against

  • Escribió un artículo contra el uso de las drogas. He wrote an article against the use of drugs.
  • Se apoyó contra un árbol. He leaned against a tree.

Adverbially, the phrase en contra is used:

  • votar en contra to vote against.

How to use the Spanish de in sentences

The versatile Spanish de can be used in many contexts. Here are some you need to know.

When de means of i.e. belonging to or made of

English may join nouns to form compound nouns where de is normally used in Spanish:

  • el Banco de España The Bank of Spain
  • los zapatos de Antonio Antonio’s shoes
  • el ama de casa the housewife
  • un talonario de cheques a checkbook (British cheque-book)
  • la sopa de legumbres the vegetable soup
  • la base de datos the database
  • un chaleco de cuero a leather jacket
  • Murió de paludismo He died of/from malaria

Uses of de meaning from

  • Es una carta de mi madre. It's a letter from my mother.
  • Es de Almería. He comes from Almería. (viene de... means he’s coming from...)
  • Hemos llegado ahora de Madrid. We’ve just arrived from Madrid.
  • a partir de ahora starting from now
  • La carretera que va de Madrid a Valencia. The road that goes from Madrid to Valencia.

See also desde, which also means from.

Examples of de meaning off/down from

  • Se bajaron del autobús. They got off the bus.
  • Bájate de ahí. Come down from there.

Uses of de meaning by after verbs meaning pull, take by, seize

  • Me tiraba de la oreja. He/she used to pull me by my ear.
  • Iban cogidos de la mano. They were walking hand-in-hand.

Uses of de meaning measuring, costing, old, before quantities, years, etc.

  • una soga de cinco metros a rope measuring five meters/metres (i.e. five meters long)
  • el menú de dos mil pesetas the 2,000 peseta menu
  • un niño de tres años a three-year old child
  • Tiene cien metros de largo/profundo. It’s 100 meters long/deep.

Using de to mean about in the sense of concerning, after verbs meaning speak, complain, etc.

  • Me niego a hablar de eso. I refuse to talk about that.
  • Se quejó de la mala comida. He complained about the bad food.
  • Le informaron de lo que pasaba. They informed him about what was happening.

How to use de to mean like, as, in phrases referring to condition or state

  • trabajar de profesor/guia to work as a teacher/guide
  • Vas de marqués por la vida. You give yourself airs and graces. (literally you go through life like a marquis)
  • Se vistió de payaso. He dressed up as a clown.
  • estar de broma to be joking, to be fooling about

This use can also be translated as for or on in some phrases:

  • Se va de viaje. He’s going on a journey.
  • Se fueron de fin de semana. They’ve gone away for the weekend.

Using de to mean in, after Superlative expressions

  • El mejor restaurante de España. The best restaurant in Spain.

Examples of using de to mean with to show the cause of some event

  • Saltaba de alegría. They were jumping with joy.
  • Enfermó (Latin America se enfermó) de bronquitis. He fell ill with bronchitis.

Using de to mean if before Infinitives

  • De ser verdad, provocará un escándalo. If it’s true, it’ll cause a scandal.

Using de to mean than in the expression más/menos de more/less than, when a quantity follows and also before clauses

  • Eso es más de cinco cervezas que has bebido esta noche. That's more than five beers you've drunk tonight.
  • Es menos de lo que pensé que costaría. It's less than I thought it would cost.

The use of de in adverbial phrases

  • de broma as a joke
  • de golpe/de repente suddenly
  • de maravilla fantastically well
  • de nuevo again
  • de paso on the way through

de acuerdo con in accordance with

  • de acuerdo con el Código Penal in accordance with the Penal Code

de parte de on the part of, on behalf of

  • ¿Puedo hablar con Antonio? Claro. ¿De parte de quién? Can I speak to Antonio? Of course. Who’s speaking/Who shall I say is speaking?

de regreso a on returning to

  • De regreso a mi casa me puso feliz. On returning to my house I felt happy.

debajo de underneath

  • debajo de la mesa underneath the table

Latin Americans often say abajo de, but this is not used in Spain.

delante de in front of

  • No quiero decirlo delanto de ella. I don’t want to say it in front of her.

dentro de inside

Using dentro de to mean inside

  • Hacía mucho frío dentro de la cueva. It was very cold inside the cave.

Latin Americans often say adentro de, a form not accepted in Spain.

Using dentro de to mean in when referring to time

  • Llegarán dentro de veinte minutos. They’ll arrive in twenty minutes.

Latin Americans often say... en veinte minutos.

The preposition desde

Examples of desde when some kind of motion is implied or distance is stressed

  • Se veía desde lejos. It was visible from a distance.
  • Desde aquí hay más de cien kilómetros. It’s more than 100 km from here.
  • Han venido desde Barcelona. They've come all the way from Barcelona. (cf ... de Barcelona ... from Barcelona)

There is some overlap in meaning in this case with de.

Using desde to mean since

  • desde entonces since then
  • desde marzo since March
  • Desde niño siempre he creído en Dios. l've always believed in God since I was a child.

Desde to mean for

Desde can also be used the phrase desde hace, as in:

Pablo estaba enfermo desde hace tres años. Pablo had been ill for three years.

después de after (time)

  • Después de beber el whisky, caí en la cuneta. After drinking the whiskey, I fell into the gutter.

detrás de behind

  • El arma que usó Michael Corleone estaba escondida detrás de la cisterna. The gun Michael Corleone used was hidden behind the cistern.

Using the preposition durante

Using durante to mean during

  • Hubo muchas guerras durante el siglo veinte. There were many wars during the twentieth century.

Using durante to mean for in expressions of time

  • Durante varios días no hablaste de otra cosa. You talked of nothing else for several days.
  • durante varias horas for several hours

The 4 uses of the preposition en

This word combines the meanings of in, into, on, and at. Spanish-speakers often have difficulty in distinguishing between these English words.

Using en to mean on

  • El plato está en la mesa. The plate’s on the table. (or encima de)
  • Lo vi en la televisión. I saw it on television.
  • Flotaba en el agua. It was floating on/in the water.
  • en la luna on the moon

Using en to mean in

  • Está en el maletero de tu coche. It’s in the trunk (British: boot) of your car.
  • Nací en Caracas. I was born in Caracas.
  • en el campo in the countryside
  • en 1999/verano/abril/español in 1999/summer/April/Spanish
  • en la mañana/tarde/noche in the moming/afternoon/night (this is Latin-American Spanish: Spain uses por with these nouns)

In time phrases of the sort he’ll be here in five minutes, dentro de is more usual than en (at least in Spain): llegará dentro de cinco minutos.

Using en to mean into

  • Entró corriendo en la habitación. He ran into the room. (entrar is followed by en in Spain, usually in Latin America by a)
  • Introduzca una moneda de cien pesetas en la ranura. Put a 100 peseta coin into the slot.

Using en to mean at with nouns denoting place, when motion is not implied

  • Estudié en Cambridge. I studied at Cambridge.
  • en la parada del autobus at the bus-stop
  • Me senté en una mesa del bar. I sat down at a table in the bar.
  • en el semáforo at the traffic-lights
  • en la puerta at the door

Using en to mean at with with certain festivals and special days

  • en Navidad at Christmas
  • en los fines de semana at weekends

Examples of en to mean at, by in estimates of quantity, value, price, quality or characteristics

  • La casa fue valorada en doscientos mil dólares. The house was valued at200,000 dollars.
  • Me tienen en poca estima. They hold a low opinion of me.
  • ¿En cuánto lo estiman? How much do they estimate that its worth?
  • Ha bajado en un diez por ciento. It’s gone down by ten per cent.
  • La reconocí en la marrara de hablar. I recognized her by her way of speaking.

Other prepositional phrases using en

  • en busca de in search of
  • en casó de in case of
  • en caso de incendio in case of fire
  • en contra de in opposition to
  • en cuanto a as for... /concerning
  • en cuanto a los demás... as far as the restate concerned...
  • en forma de in the shape of
  • en lugar de instead of (+ noun, pronoun or Infinitive)
  • en medio de in the middle of
  • en medio de la calle in the middle of the street
  • en torno a around (the subject of)/concerning
  • en vez de instead of (+ Infinitive)
  • en vista de in view of
  • en vista de lo ocurrido in view of what’s happened

encima de on top of

El libro está encima de la mesa. The book’s on the table.

enfrente de opposite

La comisaría está enfrente del museo. The police-station is opposite the museum.

entre

Examples of entre meaning between

  • entre tú y yo between you and me (note that the prepositional forms of and yoti and mi—are not used when two pronouns follow entre)
  • entre los dos pinos between the two pine trees

Using entre to mean among, through

  • El sol se veía apenas entre las nubes. The sun was barely visible among/through the clouds.
  • Encontraron la sortija entre la hierba. They found the ring among/in the grass.
  • Recuerdo haberla visto entre la gente que estaba en la fiesta. I recall seeing her among the people that were at the party.

Example of entre to mean "what with"

  • Entre una cosa y otra, se me ha ido el día. What with one thing and another my day has gone.

The phrases entre semana on weekdays and entre sí among themselves or to himself/herself/themselves (as in decía entre sí he said to himself) should be noted.

The Preposition excepto except

Prepositional forms of pronouns are not used with this word.

Vinieron todos, excepto Antonio. They all came, except Antonio.

Excepto tú y yo except you and me

Uses of frente a

Using frente a to mean in front of

  • Aparcaron frente a la comisaría. They parked in front of the police-station.

Using frente a to mean in contrast with

  • Frente a otros miembros de su partido, atacó la política de la nacionalización. In contrast with other members of his party, he attacked the policy of nationalization.

fuera de outside

  • fuera de la casa outside the house

Latin Americans often say afuera de, a form not accepted in Spain.

Uses of the preposition hacia

Examples of hacia meaning towards

  • El cometa viaja hacia el sol. The comet is traveling towards the Sun.
  • Se volvió hacia eila. He turned towards her.
  • su actitud hacia sus padres his attitude towards his parents

Using hacia to mean around (i.e. approximately) in time phrases

  • hacia mil novecientos around 1900

hasta as far as, until

  • Caminaron hasta la estación. They walked as far as the station.
  • Las obras continuarán hasta octubre. The work will continue until October.
  • hasta mañana until tomorrow
  • hasta luego good-bye/see you later (lit. until then)

From Colombia northwards hasta can also mean not until... not before...

  • Terminamos hasta ayer. (= no terminamos hasta ayer) We didn’t finish until yesterday.

junto a next to, by

  • Estuvo esperando junto a la puerta. He waited by/next to the door.

lejos de far from

  • Está lejos de aquí. It's far from here

mas allá de beyond

  • más allá del mar beyond/on the other side of the sea

mediante by means of

  • Intentaron solucionar el problema mediante una serie de medidas económicas. They tried to solve the problem by a series of economic measures.

This word is rather literary, con being more usual in everyday language.

no obstante

This is a literary term meaning notwithstanding (same as a pesar de)

  • Hay muchos niños dentro, no obstante el aula está tranquila. There are a lot of children inside, notwithstanding the classroom is quiet.

Uses of the preposition para

This preposition must be carefully distinguished from por, which is also sometimes translatable as for.

Examples of para meaning for

  • Este dinero es para ti. This money is for you.
  • Necesitamos habitaciones para ocho personas. We need rooms for eight people.
  • ¿Tienen ustedes algo para el dolor de muelas? Do you have something for toothache?
  • ¿Para qué lo hiciste? What did you do it for?

Examples of para meaning to (when it means in order to) followed by Infinitive

  • Pon más ajo para darle más sabor. Put in more garlic to give it more flavor.
  • Se fue de vacaciones para descansar. He went away on vacation/holiday to rest.
  • Tiene suficiente dinero para vivir. He’s got enough money to live.

When Para is used to mean by in time phrases

  • Lo necesito para mañana. I need it by tomorrow.
  • Para entonces ya no servirá. It'll be no use by then.

Example of para in expressions meaning to need for a number of days, etc.

  • Necosito el coche para dos dias. I need the car for two days.

When para means on the point of (with Infinitive. Latin Americans use por):

  • Está para/por llover. It's about to rain.

Uses of para to mean in .... view

  • Para ella, él era el más atractivo de todos. In her view, he was the most attractive of all.
  • Para mí que eso suena falso. In my view, that sounds false.

Para meaning towards after positive emotions (i.e. love, affection), in combination with con

El cariño que tenia para con sus hljos. The affection he had for his children.

The Preposition Por

Although the English translation of por may sometimes be for, its meaning is not the same as para and the two words must be carefully distinguished.

Using por to mean as a result of, because of, for (when it means because of)

  • Tuvimos que cerrar las ventanas por los mosquitos. We had to shut the windows because of the mosquitoes.
  • Muchas gracias por todo lo que has hecho. Many thanks for (i.e. because of) all you have done.
  • Lo hice por ti. I did it because of you/for your sake. (compare lo hice para ti. I did/made it for (i.e. to give to) you.
  • Te lo mereces por no decir la verdad. You deserve it for not telling the truth.
  • La admiro por su generosidad. I admire her for (i.e. because of) her generosity.
  • Lo hago por dinero. I do it for money. (i.e. because of)
  • Llegamos tarde por la nieve. We arrived late because of the snow.

Use of por to mean "in return for"

  • Te dan doscientas pesetas por libra esterlina. They give you 200 pesetas to the pound.
  • Cambió el coche por otro. He changed his car for another.

Use of por to mean per

  • dos mil kilómetros por hora 2,000 km an/per hour
  • dos pares de zapatos por persona two pairs of shoes per person

The preposition a is used for time: dos veces al día twice per day/a day

When por means for in the sense of substitution for

  • Me tomó por español. He took me for (i.e. confused me with) a Spaniard.
  • Hazlo por mí. Do it for (i.e. instead of) me.

Use of por as for meaning in support of

  • Estamos luchando por la libertad. We’re fighting for freedom.
  • No estoy por los referendos. I don’t support referendums.
  • Se esforzó mucho por su hijo. He made a great effort for his son.

Por used as for in the meaning to the value of

  • una camisa de seda por cien dólares a 100-dollar silk shirt
  • una factura por dos millones de pesos a bill for two million pesos
  • Podrás venderlo por un millón. You’ll be able to sell it for a million.

Por used as for to mean in search of

In this case European Spanish regularly uses a por:

  • Tendré que ir (a) por gasolina. I’ll have to go for (i.e. to get) some gas/petrol.
  • Ir por lana y volver trasquilado. To go for wool and come back shorn. (proverb used when a plan misfires)

Use of por to mean by to indicate by whom or what something is done

  • Esta novela fue escrlta por Juan Goytisolo. This novel was written by Juan Goytisolo.
  • La Iglesia fue destruida por un terremoto. The church was destroyed by an earthquake.

Por to mean by as in by means of

  • Los motores diesel funcionan por compresión. Diesel engines work by compression.
  • Funciona por electricidad. It works on/by electricity.
  • Más por chiripa que por otra cosa. More by fluke than by anything else.
  • Consiguió el empleo por enchufe. He got the job through connections/by influence.
  • por avión by plane (but en tren by train, en coche by car, en bicicleta by bicycle)
  • por teléfono/fax by phone/fax

Use of por to mean however

It is used in phrases of the type however hard you work, however tall he is:

  • Por muy alto que seas, no lo alcanzarás. However tall you are, you won’t reach it.
  • Por más deprisa que andemos, no llegaremos a tiempo. However fast we walk, we won’t get there in time.

Examples of por to mean in, around

Por can be used when referring to places or time. In this case it implies approximate location or time:

  • Vivo por aquí. I live round here.
  • por ahí somewhere around there
  • por enero around January

Use of por to mean along, through, via

Por can be used after words indicating motion:

  • Andábamos por la calle. We were walking along the street.
  • Pasaron por San Pedro. They passed through San Pedro.
  • a Madrid por Segovia to Madrid via Segovia

Use of por to mean to

Por can be used before an Infinitive, in the sense of in order to.

This overlaps in meaning with the much more frequent para. Por is used only when there is a personal or subjective motive, and para is usually optionally possible as well:

  • He venido por estar contigo. I’ve come to be with you. (i.e. because I want to be with you)
  • Yo haría cualquier cosa por conseguir ese empleo. I’d do anything to get that job.

Por debajo de under (with figures, quantities)

  • muy por debajo de las cifras del año anterior well below last year’s figures

Salvo

Salvo is used in the same way as excepto, and like the latter word it does not take prepositional forms of pronouns:

  • salvo/excepto tú except you

Según

Uses of según to mean according to:

  • Según el parte meteorológico. According to the weather forecast.
  • según tú according to you (note that the prepositional forms of pronouns—mi, ti—are not used after this preposition)

Uses of según to mean depending on

  • según la cantidad que pongas depending on the quantity you put in
  • según la persona con la que hables depending on the person you talk to

Sin without

  • Lo hice sin ayuda. I did it without help.
  • sin dudar without hesitating
  • sin nada/nadie without anything/anyone (Spanish says without nothing/no one)

Sobre

Examples of sobre to mean on top of

There is some overlap between this use of sobre and encima de and en. Sobre is more specific than en in that its spatial meaning is dearly on top of, and it is somewhat more literary than encima de which is the usual translation of on top of.

sobra/encima de/en la mesa on (top of) the table

Use of sobre to mean over

Sobre is used with verbs like fly and pass:

  • El avión voló sobre la ciudad. The plane flew over the city.
  • Pasó sobre mi cabeza. It passed over my head.

Use of sobre to mean around (i.e. roughly)

Sobre is used before times and quantities:

  • sobre las tres around three o’clock
  • Tenia sobre cinco metros de largo. it was about 5 meters long.

Use of sobre with numbers to mean over, i.e. more than, above

  • un aumento sobre el año pasado an increase over last year
  • veinte grados sobre cero 20 degrees above zero

Examples of sobre to mean about i.e. on the subject of

  • Es un programa sobre problemas ecológicos. It's a program about ecological problems.
  • hablar sobre.... to talk on the subject of...

Use of sobre to mean on, over, above in the meaning of overlooking

  • Es una casa sobre el mar. It's a house on/overlooking the sea.
  • El castillo que está construido sobre la ciudad. The castle that is built overlooking the city.

Use of sobre to mean over in the sense of superiority over

  • sobre todo above ail
  • la superioridad sobre superiority over...

Tras after

This word is literary and is replaced in everyday language by detrás de (space) or después de (time).

  • tras (después de) la victoria de los conservadores after the victory of the conservatives
  • tras (detrás de) la puerta behind the door
  • año tras año year after year (set phrase)

How To Choose The Correct Spanish Preposition: An Alphabetical Guide

About

  • On the subject of: sobre, de acerca de
  • Roughly/approximately: sobre, aldredor de
  • All over: por

Above

  • Encima de, sobre

According to

  • Según, de acuerdo con

Across

  • A través de, por

After

  • Time: después de
  • Place: detrás de

Among(st)

  • Entre

Around/round

  • to walk round something: aldredor de
  • to mean approximately: sobre, aldredor de

As far back as (since)

  • desde

At

  • place (no motion invo1ved): en
  • place (motion at, towards): a, contra
  • time: a
  • with numbers a, en

Before

  • time: antes de
  • place: delante de (= in front of)

Below

  • place: debajo de
  • numbers: bajo = inferior to - por debajo de

Beneath

  • debajo de, bajo

Beside

  • place: al lado de
  • as well as: además de

Between

  • entre

By

  • done by: por
  • time: para
  • near to: junto a, al lado de
  • by transport: por, en
  • by night: por

By means of

mediante, por

During

  • durante

Except

  • Excepto, salvo

For

  • made/bought/designed/intended for: para
  • as a result of, because of: por
  • on behalf of: por
  • instead of: por, en lugar de
  • in search of: (a) por
  • time (i.e. for n days): durante, por
  • in exchange for: a cambio de
  • for a quantity price: por

From

  • desde, de
  • time: desde, a partir de

In

  • time and place: en
  • after superlatives: de
  • within a certain time: dentro de

In front of

  • delante de, ante

Inside

  • dentro de, en

Into

  • en

Of

  • de

On

  • encima de, sobre, en
  • a after verbs of motion
  • on doing something: al + Infinitive

On behalf of

  • de parte de

Onto

  • a

Out of

  • place: de
  • motive, reason for: por
  • number: sobre

Outside

  • fuera de

Over

  • above: sobre, encima de
  • across: a través de
  • motive (e.g. fall out over): por
  • number: sobre, encima de

Per

  • per day, week: a
  • per person: por

Since

  • desde

Through

  • across: a través de, entre
  • thanks to: por
  • by means of: mediante, por

To

  • place: a
  • purpose (= in order to) para; a after verbs of motion
  • after bastante enough: para

Towards

  • hacia
  • emotion towards: hacia, para con

Under

  • underneath: debajo de
  • under a regime, orders: bajo
  • with figures: por debajo de

Underneath

  • debajo de

Upon

See On above

Via

  • por

With

  • con
  • emotions with (= arising from) de, con

Without

  • Sin

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