Some of the most common prepositions of direction are:across, through, along/alongside, around, onto, off of, into, out of, up, down, towards and away from.
Across is used to describe a movement from one side of a surface to another or from one area to another.
So you can go ‘across a river’, move books ‘across the table or ‘drive across the city’.
Through can be used to talk about something that goes 'in' one side and 'out' on the other side of something.
'I couldn't hear you on the phone. I was going through a bridge.' You can walk 'through' a crowd or group of people. It can also be used to talk about getting past an obstacle.
'The parking is through the gate on your right.'
'I got through the crowd to see what was happening.'
Along and alongside are used to describe a continuous movement. 'When I run, my dog runs alongside me.' 'I can run my hand along my arm.'
It can be used when the movement is happening in relation to something that is also continuous, like a wall, a street or a body of water.
'I walked along the road toward the school.'
'It’s a beautiful day, we should go for a walk along the beach.'
When you want to say that someone or something reached the other side of an obstacle or is located there, the preposition to use is “around’
'The children ran around the playground.'
Onto/ Off (of)
When we move something ‘onto’, means that something moves from one position to another position where it is in contact with something.
‘Can you put the vase of flowers onto the table?’
‘The car drove onto the main street.’
When we move something ‘off’ or ‘off of’ the object or person no longer has contact with that surface.
‘I took the painting off the wall. I didn’t like it.’
‘Take her handbag off of the table. It might get stolen.’
We are more likely to say ‘off’ in modern English but ’off’ and ‘off of’ are usually interchangeable.
Into /Out of
‘Into’ describes a person or object moving into a space where they are surrounded by a boundary.
‘I came into the house through the door.'
'Yesterday a pigeon flew into my house.'
‘Could you put some sugar into my cup, please?’
‘Come into the circle.'
Up and Down are pretty straight forward prepositions and they relate to a place that is above or below where we are now.
We can ‘look up and down.’ You can travel up and down a river or to a place on the map.
‘Im thinking of going up to Scotland this weekend.’
‘You can often see salmon if you sail up the river.’
Or travel ‘up to the next floor’, in a building. You can also move from a place on a chart or table. ‘She was down three places from her position last year.’
'Towards' and 'away from', are used to describe movement closer or further away from an object or another person. If I am moving towards something, I am getting closer to it. The object is getting nearer and nearer. If I am moving away from something, it is becoming further away.
‘Before the accident, I could see the car coming towards me.'
‘I hate this city, I can’t wait to get away from here.’
You should stay away from the ocean when the tide is changing, it's dangerous.’
Watch our video for more examples and notes on how to use prepositions of direction.