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1. Prepositions of place

The prepositions of place express the exact position in which an element (person, object, animal, etc.) is found.
The keys are in the handbag.
The dog is behind me because it's shy.

2. How are prepositions of place used?

These prepositions are always placed before the element which expresses where something or someone is. The most common ones are the following:

IN
The clock is in the box.
ON
The kid is on the whale.
UNDER
The baby's dummy is under the table.
NEXT TO
The cinema is next to the restaurant.
IN FRONT OF
The girl is in front of the sheep.
BEHIND
The boy is behind the curtains.
BETWEEN
My car is between those two trees.
AROUND
These cats are around the rubbish bin.
ABOVE
The balloon is above the table.
We use above but not on when something is on a higher position than something else. There's no contact between the object and the surface.
BELOW
The table is below the lamp.
We use below when something is in a lower place or position. There's no contact between the object and the surface.
OVER
The athlete is jumping over the hurdle.
She is wearing a shawl over her dress.
Over and above have a similar meaning and can be used interchangeably in many cases. However, over, unlike above, can be used when there's contact with the surface, in this case it has a similar meaning to cover. When there's movement, we can only use over.
AMONG
The rabbit is among the boxes.
Among is translated as between but it is used when something  or someone is in a group of 3 or more things, while between is used when something or someone is in the middle of 2 things.
BY / BESIDE
She is sitting by/beside her bed.
By and beside are used to refer to something which is very close to something else. They could be replaced by next to.
OPPOSITE
The boy is sitting opposite the girl.
Opposite is used to express that two things, people, buildings... are face to face.
ACROSS
The bank is across the street from the saloon.
Across is used to express that something or someone is on the other side of a street, road, river, table...

3. Prepositions of place: at, in, on  

In English, the three most common prepositions of place are in, on and at, and are used according to the element they accompany:

  • AT 

    It is used to refer to the particular point at which an element is located.

    Use Examples
    Specific buildings At home At school
    At the airport At the bus station
    Particular position
    At the door At the table
    At the entrance At the desk
    Events
    At a concert At a tennis match
    At a party At a meeting

    For addresseswhen number and street are mentioned

    At 16 Oxford Street At 26 Spring Gardens Street
    At 88 Tree Ave
    At 100 William IV Street
  • IN

    It is used to express that an element is in a closed space, or in an open space that has defined limits.

    Use Examples
    Cities, towns, countries, etc. In London In Spain
    In Barcelona In Florence
    Parts of a house In the kitchen In the garden
    In the bedroom In the sitting room
    Other expressions In a car In a taxi
    In a newspaper In prison
  • ON

    It is used to express that an element touching a surface.

    Use Examples
    Means of transport On a bus On a train
    On a plane On a ship
    Surfaces
    On the wall On the ceiling
    On a door On the floor

    For addresses when only the street is mentioned(In is also used)

    On Oxford Street On Tree Street
    On Spring Gardens Street On William IV Street
    Other expressions On TV On the Internet
    On the grass On a farm

Sometimes one preposition or another can be used before the same expression of place, but the meaning will slightly change.

My sister is in hospital.
In this case the girl is a patient.
My sister is at the hospital.
In this case the girl is not a patient, she is just visiting someone.
Martin is sitting on the table.
In this case the boy is literally on the table.
Martin is sitting at the table.
In this case the boy is next to the table, sitting on a chair.
He is at the cinema.
In this case the boy can be both inside and in front of the cinema.
He is in the cinema.
In this case we want to specify that the boy is inside the cinema.

Remember!

The prepositions of place express the exact position of an element (person, object, etc.).
On
In
Next to
In front of
Behind
Under
Between
Around
Above
Below
Over
Among
Opposite
Across
By / Beside

 

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