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Common Prepositions: a, en, de, sin, por and para

This lesson includes information on:

  1. Preposition "a"
  2. Preposition "en"
  3. Preposition "de"
  4. Preposition "con"
  5. Preposition "sin"
  6. Preposition "por"
  7. Preposition "para"

1.  Preposition "a"- The preposition "a" is commonly translated as "to" but it has many more uses in Spanish. "A" is typically used in the following situations:

  • After a verb and before a(n):

o        Person or a personal pronoun - The "a" indicates a personal relationship

o        A domesticated animal (e.g., my dog)

o        A place - Indicating moving toward something or someplace.

 

Spanish

English

Visito a Juan

I visit John

No conozco a nadie 

I don't know anybody

Busco a mi perro

I am looking for my dog

Viajo a Guatemala

I travel to Guatemala

·         Before a time

Spanish

English

Voy a las siete

I am going at seven

Tenemos una reunión a las once 

We have a meeting at eleven

 

·         After verbs indicating "to start an action or motion" and before an infinitive.  For example,

o        Empiezo a cocinar la cena (I am beginning to cook dinner).

o        Voy a pagar (I am going to pay).

o        Comienzo a estudiar Español (I begin studying Spanish).

·         "A" is typically used with these verbs:

 

Spanish

English

Aprender a

To learn how to

Aspirar a

To aspire to

Atreverse a

To dare to

Ayudar a

To help to

Comenzar a

To begin to

Contribuir a

To contribute to

Correr a

To run to

Decidirse a

To decide to

Dedicarse a

To dedicate oneself to

Echarse a

To start to

Empezar a

To begin to

Enseñar a

To teach how to

Invitar a

To invite to

Ir a

To go to

Llegar a

To come to

Negarse a

To refuse to

Prepararse a

To prepare to

Ponerse a

To start to

Salir a

To go out to

Venir a

To come to

Volver a

To do something again

 

2.  Preposition "en"- The preposition "en" is commonly translated as "in" but it has many more uses in Spanish. "En" is typically used in the following situations:

  • As "on/in/into" and expresses an exact situation, an exact time, time required to complete an action, method used, and final results.

 

Spanish

English

Ella está en la casa 

She is in the house.

Comoen dos horas.

I will eat in two hours.

Leisteen una hora.

You read (the book) in one hour.

 
  • After certain verbs and before an infinitive.  For example: Juan tardó en comenzar la clase (Juan delayed the start of the class).
  • "En" is commonly used with these verbs:

Spanish

English

Consistir en

To consist of

Convenir en

To agree to

Insistir en

To insist on

Pensar en

To think about, to contemplate

Tardar en

To delay in

 

3.  Preposition "de" - The preposition "de" is commonly translated as "of" but it has many more uses in Spanish. "De" is typically used in the following situations:

  • Expresses possession- For example, El libro de Julio (Julio's book).
  • Origin/where one is from- For example, Soy de los Estados Unidos (I am from the United States).
  • Period of day- For example, A las tres de la tarde (At three in the afternoon).
  • Construction material- La mesa de madera (The wood table).
  • After certain verbs and before an infinitive. For example, Trato de estudiar Español (I am trying to study Spanish).
  • "De" is typically used with these verbs:

Spanish

English

Acabar de

To have just

Acordarse de

To remember

Alegrarse de

To be happy to

Arrepentirse de

To regret

Apiadarse de

To have pity

Cansarse de

To tire of

Dejar de

To stop

Depender de

To depend on

Jactarse de

To boast of

Olvidarse de

To forget

Parar de

To stop

Pensar de

To think about (opinion)

Quejarse de

To complain of

Terminar de

To finish

Tratar de

To try to

 
  • "De" is commonly used in the following idiomatic expressions:

Spanish

English

De buen/mal humor

In a good/bad mood

De buena/mala gana

Willingly/Unwillingly

De esta/esa manera

In this/that way

De manera/modo

In a manner/way

De memoria

By heart

De nada

You're welcome

De nuevo

Again

De pie

Standing up

De prisa

In a hurry

De pronto

Suddenly

De repente

Suddenly

De todos modos

Anyway

De veras

Really, truly

De vez en cuando

From time to time

 

4.  Preposition "con" - The preposition "con" is commonly translated as "with" but it has many more uses in Spanish. "Con" is typically used in the following situations:

  • Expresses company- For example, Yo como arroz con pollo (I eat rice with chicken).
  • The form or manner used to complete an action(commonly with instruments) - For example, Yo bebo la sopa con una cuchara (I drink the soup with a spoon).
  • The contents of a container- For example, Una botella con agua (A bottle of water).
  • After certain verbs- For example, Puedo contar con mis padres (I can count on my parents).
  • "Con" is typically used with these verbs:

Spanish

English

Amenazar con

To threaten with

Contar con

To count on

Soñar con

To dream of or about

 
  • "Con" is commonly used in the following idiomatic expressions:

Spanish

English

Con paciencia

Patiently

Con cortesía

Courteously

Con amabilidad

(Amicably) With amicability

Con respeto

(Respectfully) With respect

Con cuidado

Carefully

Con gusto

With pleasure

Con alegria

Happily

 

5.  Preposition "sin"- The preposition "sin" is commonly translated as "without" but it has many more uses in Spanish. "Sin" is typically used in the following idiomatic expressions:

Spanish

English

Sin embargo

Nevertheless

Sin duda

Without doubt

Correr sin

To run without

Andar sin

To walk without

Hablar sin 

To talk without

Estar sin

To be without

 

6.  Preposition "por" - The preposition "por" is commonly translated as "for" but it has many more uses in Spanish. "Por" is typically used in the following situations:

  • Expresses cause or motive- For example, Juan fue a la escuela por el libro (Juan went to the school for the book).
  • Price or Exchange- Yo  pagué $25 por el libro (I paid $25 for the book).  Yo cambié el libro por otro (I exchanged the book for another).
  • Means "along," "around," or "through"- For example, Yo miro el volcán por la ventana (I look at the volcano through the window).
  • Indefinite place and time- For example, Yo viajé por Europa (I traveled to Europe).  Ellas fueron a la escuela por la mañana (The women went to the school in the morning).
  • Mode of transportation/communication- For example, Ellas fueron por avión (The women went by plane). Yo llamé por teléfono (I called by telephone).
  • Period of time- For example, Ellos estudian por dos horas (The men study for two hours.)
  • Speed, percentage or quantity used to do something- For example, Yo conduzco mi auto a 80 kilómetros por hora (I drive my car 80 kilometers per hour). 
  • In the passive tense with the verb "ser"- For example, El pan es cocinado por Juan (The bread is cooked by John).
  • Means "in place of," "for cause of" or "in the name of" or "in favor of"- For example, Estoy por salir ahora (I am in favor of leaving now).
  • Buscar, esperar, pedir don’t use por or para because they translate as: to look for, to wait for, to ask for.
  • After certain verbs, including:

Spanish

English

Ir por

To go for

Venir por

To come for

Enviar por

To send for

Regresar por

To return for

Salir por

To leave for

Volver por

To return for

Luchar por

To fight for

 
  • "Por" is commonly used in the following idiomatic expressions:

Spanish

English

Por ahora

For the time being

Por cierto

Of course

Por consiguiente

Consequently

Por ejemplo

For example

Por eso

Therefore/That's why

Por favor

Please

Por fin

Finally

Por lo menos

At least

Por lo tanto

Therefore

Por más o mucho que

However much

Por otra parte

On the other hand

Por poco

Almost

Por supuesto

Of course

Por desgracia

Unfortunately

Por último

Finally

 

7.  Preposition "para" - The preposition "para" is commonly translated as "for" but it has many more uses in Spanish. "Para" is typically used in the following situations:

  • Expresses purpose or finality- For example, Yo estudio español para mi trabajo (I study Spanish for my job).
  • Used with directions, an address or a destination- Voy para la oficina (I am going to the office).
  • Special use of an object- El lápiz es para escribir (The pencil is for writing).
  • Future time- Yo necesito la tarea para la próxima semana (I need the homework for next week).
  • Buscar, esperar, pedir don’t use por or para because they translate as: to look for, to wait for, to ask for.
  • To say, "Just about to..." use "Estar para..." - For example, Estoy para comer (I am about to eat).