Prepositions for Place

Relating "Where"

 

 

IN ON AT

Use in for larger areas.

Use on for smaller areas.

Use at for exact locations.

San Francisco bay and city cable car HOMES
CITY / AREA / DISTRICT / AREA STREET / GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURE BUILDING

in  China Town

in  San Francisco

in  the Castro

in  the San Francisco Bay Area

on Powell Street

on the Peninsula

on Alcatraz Island

 

at home

at work

at the library

 

STATE / REGION WATER / WORLD ADDRESS

in California

in North America / Europe / Australia

on the bay, on Lake Tahoe

on earth

at 1220 Haight Street

at Haight-Ashbury (intersection)

EXPRESSIONS EXPRESSIONS EXPRESSIONS

in space, in the Universe

in a car

on board (ship, bus, train, airplane)

on a bike

on a horse

at home (comfortable)

at a crossroad(s) (place requiring a decision)

at the end of a rope (be in need of assistance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepositional Phrase

Clause Position

 

 

 

After / before a verb or noun

AFTER

A prepositional phrase may complement (1) a be verb to express location, (2) a dynamic verb to express location of activity; (3) a noun phrase (post position modifer) to specify or identify which one.

AFTER A "BE" VERB

The message is on the door("be" verb complement)

AFTER AN INTRANSITIVE VERB 

He knocked on the door. (adverb  "where?")

AFTER A TRANSITIVE VERB + OBJ 

He put a message on the door. (adverb  "where?")

AFTER A NOUN PHRASE

The message [that was] on the door was written in English.  (subj. modifier)

He handed me the message [that was] on the door.  (obj. modifier)

BEFORE

A prepositional phrase may be placed before a noun phrase if the prepositional phrase is "wordy".  Note that speakers commonly place lengthy sentence elements last.

BEFORE A "BE" VERB

On the door is the message.  (subject of "be" verb)

BEFORE AN INTRANSITIVE VERB 

*He on the door knocked.

BEFORE A TRANSITIVE VERB + OBJ 

*He put on the door a message.

Except: He put on the door a rather lengthy message about why he would be late. (a wordy object)

BEFORE A NOUN PHRASE

*The on the door message was written in English.

*He handed me the on the door message. 

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In vs. On

Within vs. On the Surface

 

 

 

In (within) vs. On (surface)

IN

Usually in refers to the area within an object.  Note the prepositional phrase is placed after the object phrase (the tomatoes).

tomatoes in a bowlShe put the tomatoes in a bowl.

She put the tomatoes inside of a bowl.

She placed the tomatoes into a paper bag(in + to = inside)

ON

On refers to the upper, outer surface. The prepositional phrase is placed after the object phrase.

tomato on bowlShe placed the tomatoes on a bowl.

She placed the tomatoes on top of a bowl.  

She placed the tomatoes upon the window sill. (up + on)

 

 

 

 

In the street vs. On the street

IN THE STREET

In the street refers more to the area within: the central, traffic area of the street. Usage varies among speakers.

potholesThe workers were fixing potholes in the street. (within or below surface)

People drive in the street.  (center traffic area)  BUT: on the freeway / on the highway

He was standing in the street when a bicycle hit him. (center traffic area)

EXPRESSION

Summer's here and the time is right for dancin' in the street. (music lyrics)

ON THE STREET

on the street refers more to the surface or side of the street.  Usage varies among speakers.

cars on the streetThe workers were painting new lines on the street. (surface)

People park their cars on the street. (side of the street)

He was picking up a dollar on the street when a bicyclist hit him. (surface)

EXPRESSION

His man on the street interviews won him an award. 

 

Solution - lightbulb  Pop-Q – "On/In"
Man on the street (expression) average person or passer-by on the sidewalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Out vs. On Off

Public / Private Modes of Transportation

motorbike
 

 

Prepositions for Transportation

PUBLIC

Get on – off are used for a bus, plane, ship or train. ( The expression CANNOT be separated by an object or object pronoun.

Get on the bus.

Get off the bus.

Get on the plane.

Get off the plane.

Get on the ship.

Get off the ship.

Get on the train.

Get off the train.

Get on the elevator. (Br. Eng – lift)

Get off the elevator.

Get on the escalator.  (moving stairs)

Get off the train.

*Get it on.   

(inseparable expression)   

PRIVATE

Get in - out of are used for enclosed, private transportation. On - off are used for other modes such as bikes and motorcycles.

Get on the motorcycle.  (open-air)

Get off the motorcycle.

Get on the bicycle. (open-air)

Get off the bicycle.

Get on the escalator. (open stairway)

Get off the escalator.

Get in the car. (enclosed)

Get out of of the car.

Get in the taxi. (enclosed)

Get out of of the taxi.

Get in the elevator. (enclosed)

Get out of of the elevator.

*Get the elevator in.

(inseparable expression)   

 

Originally from "on board" a wooden ship, on now refers to all mass transportation: on a bus, on a ship, on a plane, on a ferry.)
*See Phrasal Verbs (inseparable)  |  Pop-Q "Get_on"

 

 

 

wing-walker
 

In the plane vs. On the plane

IN THE PLANE

Refers to the area within, to the actual space inside.

We were crowded together in the plane.

The luggage travels in a pressurized cabin in the plane.

Aluminum and titanium was used in the plane to reduce its weight. (construction materials)
 

ON THE PLANE

Refers to boarding or being aboard; or on the surface.  (See note above.)

We got on the plane last. 

We were on the plane for ten hours.

The Hollywood stunt man stood on the plane while it was flying. (on top of)

 

 

 

 

 

By car vs. On foot

VEHICLE

When telling how something is done (means or method) use by.

carI went by car.  (by plane, ship, train)

SELF

Use on for personal mode.

on footI went on foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relating "Where"

Relative to a direction vs. a fixed object

 

 

 

An Adverb versus A preposition

AN ADVERB FOR PLACE

Adverbs express movement in a direction.  An adverb tells us where an activity happened, but it does not relate the movement to another object.                   

 

(The little, toy egg, shown here, has wooden legs.)

 

 

A PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE FOR PLACE

Prepositional phrases are more specific in relating an object to the direction of movement. They tell us where in relation to an object an activity happened.

   

 

Some words can be used as a preposition or an adverb. See Adv. & Prep List 
fixed (adj.) – non-moving

 

 

Relative Placement

egg in front of apple
in front of

an egg behind an apple
behind / in back of

an egg between an apple and a pear
between (2) / among (3+ )

an egg on top of an apple
on / upon / on top of

egg in apple
in / inside

an egg next to an apple
next to / aside of / beside

egg under apple
under / below

egg over
above / over

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preposition Lists

One-, two- and three-word prepositions

 

 

 

One-Word Prepositions for Place

aboard (ship, bus, plane)

atop

inside

past

about

before

into

through

above

behind

near

throughout

across

below

next

to

after

beneath

of

toward / towards

against

beside / besides

off

under

along

between (2 objects)

on

underneath

amid / amidst (non-count object)

beyond

onto

up

among / amongst (3+ or noncount objects)

by

opposite

upon

around

down

out

with

aside

from

outside

within

at

in  

over

 

Place words that are not prepositions Adv. & Prep List

 

 

 

Two Words or More

ahead of

close to

in front of

next to

apart from

far away from

inside of  / in the bottom of

on the bottom of

aside of

far from

in the middle of

on top of / on the top of

away from

in back of

near to

outside of / on the outside of

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced

Relative Variations

 

 

 

BETWEEN

Use between with two items. (Use in between for something located at a midpoint on an imaginary line.)

egg betweenThe egg is between the apple and the pear.  ("in between" is a location in line)

He stood between a rock and a hard place. (expression)

The egg is in between the apple and the pear. (location – in line)

My husband and I keep our secrets between ourselves. (exclusive to others)

AMONG / AMONGST

Use among with three or more items or with a noncount noun. A variation occurs, amongst, with the final -st  against, amidst. (mostly in Br-Eng)

egg amongPlace the apple among the fruit. (noncount)

Decide among yourselves.  (count)

Gossip passed among the villagers.  (count)

He is only one among many.  (count)

They lived among the Indians.  (count)

 

 

 

 

IN THE MIDDLE OF

In the middle of specifies a middle placement: in a location, or on a field or plane (a mathematical plane); or to specify being surrounded by things.

MIDDLE PLACEMENT

egg in the middleThe egg is in the middle of the chess board. (location)

The egg is in the middle of the refrigerator. (location)

*The egg is sitting in the middle of the water. (thing – noncount)

The egg is sitting in the middle of the pot of water. (thing – count)

He sat in the middle of the people and played his guitar.

MID-WAY / MID-POINT / MID-CONSCIOUSNESS

I'm in the middle of something right now.  I'll call you back. (a project)

She's in the middle of a dream / a nightmare / a temper tantrum.

AMID / AMIDST

Amid  specifies being among or surrounded by things or people.  A variation, amidst, mostly occurs in British English.                                                      

SURROUNDED

egg amid lentils*The egg is amid the refrigerator. (location)

The egg is sitting amid / amidst the rice. (thing – noncount)

The egg is sitting amid / amidst the beans. (things – count)

He sat amid / amidst the students and played his guitar. (people)

Helen stood amidst the ruins of Troy and cried. (poetic)

SURROUNDED BY NOISE OR CHAOS

The dollar fell amid / amidst rumors of a weak economy.

He stepped back amid / amidst the shouts of angry people.          

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect or awkward usage.
ruins (n.) – parts of a building or fortress left after the rest has been destroyed
temper tantrum (n.) – display of childish rage or frustration: crying, head-banging, kicking

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

We went at home  /   to home.

 

We went to downtown.

I went there in car.

I went there on my feet.

He placed a sign which said he would be back in ten minutes on the door.

SOLUTION

We went home.   (no preposition)

We were at home. 

We went downtown(no preposition, "down" is the preposition)

We were downtown.

I went there by car.   (See means or method.)

I went on foot. 

He placed on the door a sign which said he would be back in ten minutes

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice1

Home

home
 

 

Complete the sentence.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 1-20" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

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Practice 2

Title

rabbit in hole
 

 

Complete the sentence.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 21-40" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

21.
(creek (n.) – small river)

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