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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:

,

, and

.

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

and

.

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.

Notice that although in geometry surface and area go together because both are two-dimensional, in

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