This month it’s the turn of prepositions – yet another member of that large family of words. As usual it is quite clear what these are by their name. They are to do with the position of something. There are prepositions of place – words like ‘near, under, next to, opposite’ and there are also prepositions of time – for example ‘before’ and ‘after’. In all cases we are positioning something, in place or time, in relation to something else ‘under the table’, ‘before 2 o’clock’.
In Spanish most, but not all, prepositions place the word ‘de’ between themselves and the thing they are expressing a relationship with. I will explain.
The word for ‘near’ is ‘cerca’. We can use this on its own; for example Está cerca means It is near (obviously we already know what it is near, we are just not stating it).
The complete sentence would be:
Está cerca de la ventana. – It’s near the window.
In your own mind you might think this is like It is near to the window., but putting little English words in doesn’t work in all cases, so it is best to avoid it.
The word for ‘under’ is ‘debajo’, so ‘under the table’ is ‘debajo de la mesa’.
‘Next to’ is ‘al lado’ (literally meaning ‘at the side’).
We might say ‘vivo al lado’ which would translate into English as ‘I live next door’.
Vivo al lado del ayuntamiento. – I live next to (or next door to) the town hall.
This example shows up another small point to take on board here, which is very simple. When the word ‘de’ is followed by the word ‘el’ (the), they join together to form one word ‘del’. We know this of course because of ‘Menu del Día’ (set meal of the day).
The last of our four examples is ‘opposite’. Remember this means ‘opposite’ in position, not something like an ‘opposite point of view’ which is ‘contrario’.
El banco está enfrente de la iglesia. – The bank is opposite the church.
I hope you have noticed and remembered that we express position with the verb ‘estar’.
The same principle occurs with prepositions of time.
Te llamo después. – I’ll call you after (afterwards).
Te llamo después de la cita. – I’ll call you after the appointment.
Vamos a tomar algo antes de comer. – Let’s have a drink before lunch. This second example leads us to a very useful point about prepositions of time – which is that they can go before nouns (like ‘the appointment’) and they can also go before verbs in the infinitive ‘comer’ (to have lunch).
Tomo un café después de nadar. – I have a coffee after swimming.
There are a few prepositions which are not followed by the magic word ‘de’, but I think at this stage we can live with that!
Here are three common ones: ‘en’ (on, in), ‘sobre’, (on, over, about), ‘entre’ (between). Interestingly all three can be used as prepositions of place and time. For example:
Mi perro está en el salón.
Mi cumpleaños es en septiembre.
Mi casa está entre el banco y la farmacia.
Te llamaré entre lunes y jueves.
El florero está sobre la mesa.
La actuación termina sobre las 10.
See you next month!
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.