Prepositions are use to establish relationships between things and actions. They indicate origins, destinations, possession, recipients, time, etc. Take note that many prepositions are not entirely equivalent between English and Spanish, so direct translation is not the best strategy. Instead, learn how the different prepositions are used in Spanish.
Common Spanish prepositions are presented in the following table:
When prepositions a and de precede the determiner el, the result is a combined/contracted form:
The preposition a is always used to introduce direct objects that refer to people, groups of people, or animals, including pronouns such as the indefinites alguien, alguna, nadie, and ningún, e.g.: Voy a visitar a mis tíos. When the direct object is not a person/animal, no personal a is needed, e.g.: Voy a visitar el museo.
The prepositions por and para are both translated as "for" in English, which makes them difficult to distinguish for learners of Spanish. However, they are NOT interchangeable and are used for different things. Broadly speaking, para is used to indicate purpose or destination (looks forward) while por is used to indicate cause or motive (looks backward). This distinction can be seen in the following phrases:
The following table compares the different uses of por and para:
Por and para are also each used in many fixed expressions, some of which are listed here:
The words durante, dentro de, en, a, por, para, desde, antes, and después are used to indicate when an action started or how long it lasted. Let's consider each of these in turn:
In both English and Spanish some verbs require a preposition when followed by an infinitive or a noun, while others do not. The most common Spanish verbs that require prepositions are presented in the following tables:
The verb ir is usually followed by the preposition a, with one exception: the expression ir de vacaciones. Do not write Ir a vacaciones a España, but rather Ir de vacaciones a España.
Pay particular attention to the verbs that are followed by de in Spanish, but by "to", "about", or "on" in English (e.g.: acordarse de, dejar de, depender de, quejarse de, etc.)
Remember that English infinitives are marked with the word "to" before them, e.g.: "I want to go." Keep in mind that infinitives in Spanish are not marked with any special word or preposition. This means that many verbs that can be followed by infinitives in Spanish DO NOT take a preposition before the infinitive, unlike English, that requires "to".