Using Prepositions of Place in English
by Erin McGann
May 08, 2019

You’re Where?! Using prepositions.

Where are you?

Where are you going?

In English, we have many prepositions to describe where we are, and where things are. There are some little tricks to get them right and make yourself understood.

Why is the park so complicated?

If your friend wants to meet you for a walk in the park, that seems simple enough. You are going to the park.

‘To’ is your preposition here, describing your destination.

Once you’re there, and your friend is late, again, you want to text them and tell your friend you’ve already arrived. You can say: ‘I am in the park!’ or ‘I am at the park!’. Both are correct.

The park is a place that you arrive at, but also big enough that you can be in it. This kind of preposition applies to places like restaurants, coffee shops, and clubs. You know, anywhere you could go inside and be annoyed that your friends are late.

Of course, if you have told them you are in the club, you have already gone inside. If you’re at the club, you could be outside waiting. If they are always this late though, I think you should definitely go in and have a drink. Weirdly, this does not apply to going to your house.

You are always at home, never in home. You may be ‘in my house’ but that is a very specific thing to say, and casually you’d more likely say ‘I’m at home’.

I want the biggest pastry

You’re at the bakery (or in the bakery, both are correct), and you want the biggest croissant in the case.

The bakery person has their tongs over the small one. You need to give directions here, so let’s flex your prepositions. You can say:

  • The one behind it
  • The one next to it
  • The one in front of it

Behind

Behind doesn’t need any extra helper words to use it, but you will need to be clear what other things are involved. For example: the house behind the ugly shop, the giant lizard behind the rock, the space ship behind the mountain. You can’t use behind without the context.

Next to always needs ‘to’ when we’re using it as a preposition.

Next to

If three birds sit on a wire, they are next to each other. It can be on either side, but you are explaining they are close in distance. For example: Germany is next to Austria, the blue house next to mine, the ketchup is next to the mustard.

In front of

In front of is a phrase used as a unit, to show something ahead of something else. You can’t skip the helper words here. For example: the chocolates are in front of the pastries, the frog jumped in front of the toad, the alien appeared in front of me.

The space between

It is very hard to explain ‘between’ without using that word, because it is a very common preposition in English.

If there are two dogs sitting on the pavement, the space from the first dog to the second dog is what we call ‘between’. The space between the two dogs, in fact.

You can remember it by looking at the word itself – the ‘tw’ is a hint. It reminds you of the English number two for a reason.

Between comes from the Old English words that meant ‘by’ and ‘two each’. So go sit in that excellent space where you have a friendly, tail-wagging dog on either side of you and enjoy being between the dogs. Though hide that big croissant first, or you will have to share it!

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