Prepositions of place, direction, distance
The correct usage of prepositions referring to place, direction and distance depends on how we perceive the thing/object. Basically there are three types of places:
|1. The place is seen as a simple point in space, but without referring to length, width and height.|
|simple location||We met at the cinema.
They stayed away from the cinema.
|destination||They went to the cinema.
They ran (away) from the cinema.
|2. The place is seen as a line as a length dimension but not as a width and height dimension.|
|simple location||Tim stood on the goal-line.
The battle was fought off the coast of Africa.
|destination||The car turned off the main road.
They walked along the street.
|3. The place is seen as a surface that is as length and width dimensions (without height)|
|simple location||The book was on the shelf.
The book was off the desk.
|destination||He dropped the book on(to) the table.
Tim took the book off the shelf.
He fell off the chair.
|The place is seen as a surface (ground or the terrain within its boundaries)|
|simple location||The tourists were in the square.
The sales representative is out of town today.
|destination||The path goes through a field.
The soldiers crowded into the market.
|The place is seen as a three-dimensional space|
|simple location||He was in the garage.
He was out of the room.
|destination||He ran into the room. |
He ran out of the room.
|contrast between 'at' and 'on'|
|When a place is seen as a simple point||The plane stopped at London on its way to New York.|
|When a place is seen as a closed territory||She lives in London.|
|with parts of towns/cities||They lived in Manhattan.|
|When a building is perceived in institutional categories||I saw him at the hospital.|
|When a building is perceived in physical categories||I saw him in the hospital.|
|Contrast between 'on' and 'in'|
|When we see the object as a surface||Pieces of wood were floating on the water.|
|When we see the object as space||The children were playing in the water.|
|Prepositions showing location or destination in relation to the landmark|
|simple location (vertical)||The apple is on top of the cupboard.
The apple is below the cupboard.
|simple location (horizontal)||There are some trees in front of the house.
There are some trees behind the house.
|destination||When it started to rain, they ran underneath the bridge.
The car sped away from the tunnel.
|contrast between 'between' - 'among' - 'amid'|
|in relation to two objects||She is standing between two boys.|
|in relation to more than two objects||She is standing among boys.
The house stands amid trees.
ExercisesGrammar exercises - Prepositions
- Grammar explanations
- Grammar exercises
- Phrasal verbs
- British vs. American
- English proverbs
- Word formation
- English abbreviations