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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

Preposition Use Sentences
above higher than something The water was above my waist.
across from one side to the other side You can go across this road here.
There is the bridge across the river.
after one follows the other The dog ran after the cat.
After you. No, after you.
against directed towards something. The boat sailed against the wind.
along from one point to another in a line They walked along the river.
among surrounded in a group The boy played among the trees.
around movement in a circle or curve We sat around the campfire singing songs.
at position on a point Turn left at the next corner
stage of a journey Our plane stopped at Rome.
meeting point Let’s meet at the bus station
behind at the back of She sat behind me.
below lower than something The ship sank below the waves
beneath lower than something The ship sank beneath the waves
beside next to something/body Our house is beside the park.
between something/body is on each side Our house is between the park and the police station.
by just at the side of He lives by the sea.
close to near Our house is close to the sea.
down from high to low We walked down the hill.
from Starting point I have just come from the train station.
in front of before – facing same side I parked in front of the school.
inside in a place I waited inside her office
in place seen in three dimensions We sat in the car.
larger areas She was born in France.
into entering a place She walked into the room.
near close to something We live near the sea.
next to beside something She was standing next to a man
off away from something The cat jumped off the roof.
on touches a surface The cat is on the table.
seen as a position on a line His house is on the way from the station.
by a lake or sea Chicago is on Lake Michigan.
onto moving to a place The cat jumped onto the roof.
opposite on the other side of I parked opposite the supermarket.
out of leaving something The cat jumped out of the window.
outside not in a place I waited outside his office.
over higher than  The cat jumped over the wall.
past going near something/body. Go past the police station.
round movement in a circle or curve We sat round the campfire singing songs.
through going from one point to another in a 3 dimensional place  We walked through the woods
to movement or direction He goes to work by car.
Can you come to me?
I’ve never been to America.
towards in the direction of something We drove towards the town.
under lower than something. The cat is under the table.
underneath lower than something. The cat is underneath the table.
up from low to high He went up the hill.