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Prepositions of Place and Direction

1.1 Prepositions – at, in, on.

Prepositions of place can be difficult – here’s some help about using ‘at‘, ‘in‘ and ‘on‘ when you’re talking about where things are.

1.2 Basics:

At is used if something is at a point; a stage on a journey or a meeting place where we are not concerned about the building or other details as it is the meeting point is that is important:

  • Meet me at the corner.
  • The train stops at London.
  • I was at the theatre last night.

In is used for position inside large flat areas and in three dimensional spaces:

  • I read it in the newspaper.
  • Let’s go for a walk in the woods.
  • The car is in the car park.

On is used if something is on a line or part of a line:

  • London in on the River Thames.
  • We can stop for a rest on the way.

or a horizontal or vertical surface:

  • Dinner’s on the table.
  • Put the picture on the wall.

or if something is attached to something:

  • He put the ring on her finger.
  • Are there many oranges on the tree?

1.3 Points to consider

Public Transport:

We use on ( and off ) when we talk about travel using public transport: trains, buses, planes and boats.

  • Get on the bus!
  • We booked tickets on the 8:30 London to Brighton train.
  • We went on board an hour before sailing.

We use in ( and out of ) when we talk about cars, private planes and small boats as the smallness gives a three dimensional feel.

  • Get in the car!
  • We sat in the rowing boat.

2. Sentences with prepositions of place and direction

PrepositionUseSentences
abovehigher than somethingThe water was above my waist.
acrossfrom one side to the other sideYou can go across this road here.
There is the bridge across the river.
afterone follows the otherThe dog ran after the cat.
After you. No, after you.
againstdirected towards something.The boat sailed against the wind.
alongfrom one point to another in a lineThey walked along the river.
amongsurrounded in a groupThe boy played among the trees.
aroundmovement in a circle or curveWe sat around the campfire singing songs.
atposition on a pointTurn left at the next corner
stage of a journeyOur plane stopped at Rome.
meeting pointLet’s meet at the bus station
behindat the back ofShe sat behind me.
belowlower than somethingThe ship sank below the waves
beneathlower than somethingThe ship sank beneath the waves
besidenext to something/bodyOur house is beside the park.
betweensomething/body is on each sideOur house is between the park and the police station.
byjust at the side ofHe lives by the sea.
close tonearOur house is close to the sea.
downfrom high to lowWe walked down the hill.
fromStarting pointI have just come from the train station.
in front ofbefore – facing same sideI parked in front of the school.
insidein a placeI waited inside her office
inplace seen in three dimensionsWe sat in the car.
larger areasShe was born in France.
intoentering a placeShe walked into the room.
nearclose to somethingWe live near the sea.
next tobeside somethingShe was standing next to a man
offaway from somethingThe cat jumped off the roof.
ontouches a surfaceThe cat is on the table.
seen as a position on a lineHis house is on the way from the station.
by a lake or seaChicago is on Lake Michigan.
ontomoving to a placeThe cat jumped onto the roof.
oppositeon the other side ofI parked opposite the supermarket.
out ofleaving somethingThe cat jumped out of the window.
outsidenot in a placeI waited outside his office.
overhigher than The cat jumped over the wall.
pastgoing near something/body.Go past the police station.
roundmovement in a circle or curveWe sat round the campfire singing songs.
throughgoing from one point to another in a 3 dimensional place We walked through the woods
tomovement or directionHe goes to work by car.
Can you come to me?
I’ve never been to America.
towardsin the direction of somethingWe drove towards the town.
underlower than something.The cat is under the table.
underneathlower than something.The cat is underneath the table.
upfrom low to highHe went up the hill.