Prepositions are small words, but they cause a lot of confusion in English because they have so many uses. Prepositions of place are used to talk about the location of a person or an object.
Some of the most common prepositions of place are: on, off, in, at, by, under, underneath, over, above, below, from, between, among, and behind.
‘On’ is used to describe an object that is in contact with
‘On’ is also used when something is on top of something else: 'My bag is ON the table.' 'The cups are ON the shelf.'
When you're talking about clothes or things that you wear. So, when it's cold outside you can say, 'put your coat ON', or 'John had a blue sweater ON today.'
You can even use 'on' when you're talking about features; such as, 'she has a black mole on her face.' 'He has a lot of freckles on his body.'
Because 'on' talks about things that are in contact with the surface, we can say things like, ‘The church is on the Main Street’ or ‘There is a cat on the road’.
You can even say, ‘Ducks swim ON the water’; ‘the boat is ON the lake’; or ‘I can see skyscrapers ON the horizon’, because all these things have contact with a surface.
We also use ‘on’ to say ‘I am going on holiday’ or ‘I am going on a trip’; and on public transport like buses, planes, metros and trains:
'I need to get ON the underground at Kings Cross'.
'She will get ON the train at the next stop'.
'Off' is the opposite of on. We can use off to describe something that is no longer touching or in contact with something else, or to say that something has been removed:
'Take the book OFF the table.'
'I took the lid OFF the jar.'
Off is also the word we use when we're talking about
'I need to get OFF the bus at the next stop.'
'If you don't have a ticket, you will have to get OFF the train.'
'Off' is also used to talk about places that are geographically close to each other: 'My house is just OFF the main road', means that my house is not far from the main road. Or you could say, ‘Sicily is an island OFF the South of Italy’.
'In' is used to talk about things that are inside something - 'in' and 'inside' are often interchangeable when we talk about things that are surrounded by a boundary. At the moment, 'I am in my house.' 'I can put coffee in my cup.' or 'I put your keys in your bag.'
We use 'in' to talk about the environment we are in: '
'London is IN the UK.' 'The best cinema is IN the city.' 'I like to go on holidays IN the south of France.'
We often use in to talk about parts of the body, particularly if we have pain or something is wrong. Then you can say, 'I have a pain IN my foot', or 'I have a pain IN my stomach', because the pain is inside you.
When we use the word 'at', we're talking about our general position or a location, or the general position or location of an object. So if I say 'I am at the house', you don't know if I am inside or outside, but you know that I am in the same general area as the house.
We use 'at' when we're talking about monuments. For example, you can say, 'I am AT the Eiffel Tower' or 'The president of the United States lives AT the White House'.
You can use 'at' to talk about general locations, like 'I can't help you right now. I'm AT work', or I can say, 'I am AT the shop. Do you need anything?'.
And we use 'at' when we talk about events: 'Were you AT the party last night?'; 'Were you AT John and Rebecca's wedding?'; 'Did you see anything good AT the cinema?'
The word 'by' talks about general locations. When we say something is 'by' something else we mean it is beside, near or close to something. So if I say 'My house is BY the school', you know that my house and the school are close to each other. Or I can say, 'I will meet you by the river.' In this case, you will know that we will meet at that general location.
'Under' is the preposition we use when we want to talk about something which is covered by something else, or in a lower position than it. 'Under' is another way of saying 'below' or 'beneath'; for example, 'the book is UNDER the cup' or 'The rug is UNDER the table.'
We can use under to talk about things that are in contact with something else, but also things that aren't touching each other: 'I usually park my car UNDER the tree'.
And we can use 'under' to talk about measurements: 'I try to keep my salt intake UNDER 4 grams a day.' In this case, you are saying that your intake of salt is less than 4 grams per day.
You can use ‘underneath’ when something is under something else and covered by it.
'You should never shelter UNDERNEATH a tree in a thunderstorm.'
'The pen is UNDERNEATH the newspaper.'
'Harry Potter lived UNDERNEATH the stairs in his parents' house.'
'Over' has the opposite meaning to 'under' - we use it to talk about something that is in a higher position in relation to another thing. Sometimes it has the same meaning as 'above', so if I park my car under the tree, the tree is over my car. Here are some more examples:
'The mirror is OVER the fire'.
'When I'm cold, I like to put a blanket OVER me.'
'We flew OVER Spain on the plane.'
'The bees fly OVER the flowers.'
'Above' is used to describe something at a higher level in relation to something else. We use above and below when the object is not connected or touching anything else and there is no movement:
'The painting is ABOVE the chair.'
'I was thinking of putting a shelf ABOVE the bed'.
We use 'from' to talk about where something originated:
'Where are you FROM?'
'This coffee comes FROM Brazil.'
'From' can also be used to indicate a starting point: 'I took the train FROM London'; or we can use 'from' to indicate a reference point:
'From my point of view...'
'From the way the sky looks, I think it will rain later.'
When we say that something is 'between' we are talking about the space separating two things:
For example, 'There is a park BETWEEN my house and the school.' 'There is a table BETWEEN the two chairs.'
Between is also used to link things together: 'There is a train BETWEEN London and Paris.' 'Is there a petrol station BETWEEN this town and the next one?'
When a person or object is surrounded by lots of other people or objects, we can use the preposition ‘among’:
‘You will find a knife AMONG the cutlery in the drawer.’
'She's standing over there AMONG her friends.'
If we want to say that something is positioned at the back of something else we use the word 'behind':
'There is a garden BEHIND my house.'
'I can put my hair BEHIND my ears when it gets in the way.'
'The pen is BEHIND the book.'