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.
|We met at the cinema.
They stayed away from the cinema.
|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.
|Tim stood on the goal-line.
The battle was fought off the coast of Africa.
|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)
|The book was on the shelf.
The book was off the desk.
|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)
|The tourists were in the square.
The sales representative is out of town today.
|The path goes through a field.
The soldiers crowded into the market.
|The place is seen as a three-dimensional space
|He was in the garage.
He was out of the room.
|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.
|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