Brought to you by the Purdue University Online Writing Lab Graphics for this handout were developed by Michelle Hansard.
Prepositions expressing spatial relations are of two kinds: prepositions of location and prepositions
of direction. Both kinds may be either positive or negative. Prepositions of location appear with
verbs describing states or conditions, especially
; prepositions of direction appear with verbs of
motion. This handout deals with positive prepositions of location that sometimes cause difficulty:
The handout is divided into two sections. The first explains the spatial relationships expressed by the
three prepositions. The second examines more closely the uses of
Prepositions differ according to the number of dimensions they refer to. We can group them into three classes using concepts from geometry: point, surface, and area or volume.
Prepositions in this group indicate that the noun that follows them is treated as a point in relation to which another object is positioned.
Prepositions in this group indicate that the position of an object is defined with respect to a surface on which it rests.
Prepositions in this group indicate that an object lies within the boundaries of an area or within the confines of a volume.