Meanings of various prepositions

The prepositions convey a variety of meanings such as location or direction, time, agency, instruments, possession, manner, cause, origin etc. besides it must be noted that the same preposition can convey various meanings.

Prepositions of place and direction

These prepositions are also called prepositions of space and movement. Most of these can express either space (where something is) or movement (where it is going).

Place:-The key was under the sofa (where the key was).

Movement: The papers fall onto the floor (where the papers fall).

Thus, these prepositions indicates where something is or going in relation to another.

Place can be considered as:

1. A point (something with no dimension).


Use At or To

i. Suhail is at the bus-stop.

ii. There is cross mark at the top of the page.

iii. Samina stood at the end of the queue.

iv. Who is standing at the the door?

v. The bus is going to Islamabad.

vi. I am going to new Delhi

Remember: At expresses position, and to expresses movement.

2. A line or a surface (something with one two dimensions)


Use On, Onto

i. The bird is on the branch.

ii. The fly is on the gate.

iii. The book is on the table.

iv. There is a bird on the roof.

v. The man is on the chair.

vi. Shabir is putting his luggage onto the roof of the car.

Notes: We use the man in the chair when the chair has more than two dimensions.

Remember: On refers to things at rest and upon to things in motion.

→ The dog jumped upon the table. (Not on the table).

→ The hat is on the peg. (Not upon the peg)

3. A space (something with three or more dimensions).


Use In, Inside, Into

i. The cat is in/inside the box.

ii. There is a little coffee in the glass.

iii. The girl is in the garden/in the town/city/in the country.

iv. There are numerous heavenly bodies in the space.

v. The man is idiot; he pushed me into the swimming pool.

vi. Fishes live in/inside the water.

vii. Ahmad is driving into the water.

viii. Fida is putting things into the box

Remember: Inside emphasizes the idea of being in the interior. It is in contrast to outside.

The passengers were sitting inside the bus.

The debits asked two of them to step outside.

Note: As from the above it is clear that into and onto express movement, but we can use in and on instead of into and onto respectively especially in informal English.

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The manager came in/into the office.

The papers fill on/onto the floor.

Remember: Onto emphasizes the idea of approaching the surface (with effort)

• The hero jumped onto the car.

Into emphasizes the idea of penetrating a space.

• The frightened girl ran into the cave.

Note: It is wrong to say, Ahmad entered into the room, we can only enter the arrangement. Thus the correct sentence is Ahmad enter into the room or Ahmad entered in the room.

Away from emphasizes the idea of leaving we use usually from in most cases.

• The letter is from New Delhi.

• Where do you come from?

I come from Hyderabad.

• The thieve run away from the city.

Remember: From is opposite of to.

To with listen, speak, talk shows direction:

• Listen to me.

• Talk to him.

• Speak to her.

At with arrive, shoot, smile, laughs, aim, describes the destination:

• Nargis laughs at me.

• Arrive at Rawalpindi.

• Shoot at a bird.

• Smile at the baby.

Note: Sachin throw the ball at Shoaib. (At to hit him)

Sachin throw the ball to Dhoni. (So that he can catch it)

For indicates the end of a movement.

Huda left for Iran. (Not Huda left to Iran)

Towards means; in the direction of:

He took a bus that was going towards Anantnag.

By (a point).

By is used to mean ‘along’ or ‘at’ the side of a point.


• The table is by /besides the bed.

• I passed by many shops on our way to the museum.

• He stood by me in trouble times.

• I pass by the old cottage everyday on my way to school.

Along a line: along is used to mean ‘at the side of’ a line:

• The man is walking along the river.

• The boss is coming along the corridor.

Across a surface or line: across is used to mean from one side to another.

• The girls ran across the field.

• The river is a mile across here.

Through a space: through is used to mean into and then out of:

• The train chugged through the tunnel.

• The cars are going through the tunnel.

• The fly came in through the window.

Between and among: between must be followed by two things and among by more than two things.

• ‘C’ lies between ‘B’ and ‘D’

• I found the watch between two trees.

• Ahmad is the best student among all the students of his class.

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• The cat hid among the bushes.

Note: But when we speak of clear, exact positions we always use between.

• Kerala lies between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and the Arabian Sea.

Near: near as a preposition means ‘close to’. It can be used as;

An adjective: the lake is very near. (describing lake)

And adverb: we live quite near.

A preposition: we live near the lake.

A preposition: the airport is near Srinagar.

Behind’ and ‘In front of’.

• Just behind the house is the tree.

• There is a house in front of the tree.

Over’ and ‘under’.

• The shower is over the man’s head.

• The man is under the shower.


There is bridge over the river.

Qasim is under the custody.

It is no use crying over split milk.

Above’ and ‘below’.

• His head is above water.

• His body is below water.


• The plan is above the clouds.

• The temperature is below zero.

• He has above average intelligence.

Between’, ‘next to’ and ‘opposite’.

Notice the use of

Notice the use of between, next to and opposite; as:

• The bank is next to the gift shop.

• The sports shop is opposite the bank.

• The travel agency is between the sports shop and the art gallery.

• The restaurant is opposite the art gallery.

• The art gallery is next to the travel agency.

• The gift shop is between the bank and the restaurant.

‘Up’ and ‘down’

• The girl is coming down the stairs.

• Ahmad is going up the stairs.


• Shahid is going up the ladder.

• The boss is coming down the corridor.

On’ and ‘upon’ (comparison) on is used to refer things at rest and upon is used to refer things in motion.

• The dog jumped on the table. (incorrect)

• The dog jumped upon the table. (correct)

• The hat is upon the peg. (incorrect)

• The hat is on the peg. (correct)

To’ and ‘till’ (comparison). To refers to place while till refers to time.

• We went by train from Jammu till Delhi. (incorrect)

• We went by train from Jammu to Delhi. (correct)

• We went on writing to the last minute. (incorrect)

• We went on writing until or till the last minute. (correct)

• Wait here till my arrival. (correct)

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• Wait here to my arrival. (in correct)

Beside’ and ‘besides

Beside’ means at (or by) the side of while ‘besides’ means in addition to that.

• The table is beside the chair.

Besides his children, there were present his nephews and nieces.

Round’ or ‘around

• We walked round/around the lake.

• They are running round/around the track.

In’ and ‘on’ (comparison)

• Where is the notice? (on the door)

• Where is the key? (on the bottle)

• Where is the juice? (in the bottle)

‘At’ and ‘on’ (comparison)

• There is somebody at the door.

• There is a poster on the door.

Remember: We can use in or at with the names of cities, town or villages. In most cases in is used. We use ‘in’ when we are talking about a place as an area; we use ‘at’ when we consider it as a point.

• We stayed in Kashmir for five days.

• Our plan stopped at Srinagar on the way to Iran. (Srinagar = Srinagar airport)

• How long have you lived in this village?

Also ‘in’ is used with the names of streets and ‘at’ when we give the house-number.

• Ashiq lives in Church Street.

• Ashiq lives at 45 church street.

Preposition of place

In’ and ‘at’ with buildings (comparison)

We use ‘in’ when we mean inside a building but we normally use ‘at’ when we are talking about what happens there.

• There are 500 seats in the cinema.

I was at cinema (= watching a film)

• It was raining, so we waited in the pub

We were at the pub.

• There is a huge crowd in the stadium waiting for the games to start.

I saw Ahmad while I was at the station waiting for a train.

Some special examples of ‘in’, ‘on’, and ‘at’.

Who is in that photograph? (not on)

 There wasn’t cloud in the sky. (not on the sky)

 The passengers had to stand in a queue.

 I read about the festival in a magazine. (not on a magazine)

 I will be at work until 5 but I will be at home all evening.

 We were there many people at the party/meeting.

 I see daily my face in the mirror.

 What are you writing on the page?

 Ahmad arrived in a taxi/car.
There were too many people on it. (not in it)

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