Some Prepositions of Location Explained

The three most common prepositions in relation to ‘location’ are; in, at and on.  Here is a guideline that will allow you to be correct when using these three prepositions the majority of the time. 

Read the explanation below and download a practice exercise here.

If you know some exceptions to the following guideline, that’s great but don’t get obsessed with these exceptions.  Remember my objective on No More Spanglish is to help you avoid typical errors by ensuring that you are correct most of the time.

In is usually used to say that someone or something is in a physical place (with 3 dimensions).  E.g. We are in the room.

At is usually used to say something or someone is at a specific place (2 dimensions).  Think of the ‘2 dimensions’ like lines of longitude and latitude on a map.  Where they intersect is where the person or thing is.  E.g. I’ll meet you at the restaurant.

On is usually used to say someone or something is on top of a surface (1 dimension).  E.g. The cup is on the table.  My glasses are on my face.  (No, my face is not one-dimensional but I’m referring to a surface).

In (3D) At (2D) On (1D)
a place that is enclosed or within boundaries (or has 3 dimensions) a specific place a place that is physically on top of a place
in the city at the shopping centre on the table
in the box at the table on the floor
in the park at work on the wall

Now, if you are the kind of person who insists on complicating things by going on and on (dar vueltas y vueltas) about exceptions to this basic guideline then my advice to you is to LEAVE THIS BLOG NOW AND NEVER RETURN!

For the rest of you; try the exercise on the drop down menu under FREE STUFF – Preposition Practice.  I have included some exceptions for the whiners(quejicas).  Enjoy:)


About No More Spanglish

I have been an English teacher for over eight years in Madrid. Most of that time has been spent teaching, correcting and translating in the Media sector. My mission, and that of this blog, is to improve your level of English by eliminating one common/repeated error at a time. For further details - check me out on LinkedIn or email me directly at

Posted on 27/03/2012, in Preposition Practice and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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