Lesson 7 - Use of Prepositions
In most respects the use of prepositions is the
same as English.
- Voy a la tienda. (I'm going to the store.)
- Son para nuestros hijos. (They are for our children.)
Preposition followed by noun or noun
substitute, forming a prepositional phrase. The word
"preposition" means something placed (position) before
(pre) something else. A preposition is followed by a noun or noun
substitute (pronoun; infinitive; adjective with article), thus forming a
prepositional phrase. The following are not sentences, since they have no verb:
- Al faro. (To the Lighthouse, a novel by Virginia Wolff.)
- Sobre los ángeles (About Angels, title of a book of
poetry by Luis Cernuda.)
Function of the prepositional
phrase. The prepositional phrase as a whole serves as an adjectival or
adverbial modifier. That is, it makes a noun or a verb more specific.
- La casa de los abuelos es grande. (The grandparents' house is
- Va para cerveza. (He's going for [=to get] beer.)
The subject of a verb will not
follow a preposition. The object of the preposition is "tied"
to the preposition and is not available for another sentence function.
- Los maestros de los niños son listos. (The children's teachers are
- Niños cannot be the subject, even though it is next to the
verb, because it is object of the preposition de. Therefore,
maestros is the subject.
- La perra de mi hermana es bonita. (The dog, not the sister, is pretty.)
Verb meaning and prepositions.
- Untranslated, required
prepositions.A number of verbs require a preposition before a following
infinitive or direct object. These are not translated, or are translated
differently than one expects. Sometimes the meaning of the verb is changed.
- Using a:
- A form of invitar + a + infinitive to invite to do
- Invitamos al cura a comer. (We invite the priest to eat. The first
a, contained within the contraction al, marks the direct object
and is not translated. The second a, required after invitar, is
not translated either.)
- A form of ir + a + infinitive to be going to do
- Vamos a estudiar. (We are going to study. Do not equate the "a"
with the "to" in the English translation. Estudiar means
"to study." The "a" is not translated.)
- Using de:
- A form of acabar + de + infinitive to have just done
what the infinitive says.
- Acabo de ganar la lotería. (I've just won the lottery.)
- A form of haber (irregular) + de + infinitive to have
to do something.
- Ha de estar aquí mañana. (He/she/it has to be here tomorrow.)
- While que is a conjunction rather than a preposition, it is used
similarly after tener or haber and before an infinitive, meaning
to have to do the action of the infinitive:
- Tienes que estudiar. (You have to study.)
- Hay que estudiar. (One has to study. A more general statement.)
- Effect of preposition on verb
meaning. Sometimes the meaning of the verb changes, depending on
whether or which preposition follows.
- dar to give; dar a to face (Da a la calle - It
faces the street.); dar con to bump into; dar en to
understand, to "catch on."
- dejar to permit; dejar de to stop doing
- Lack of prepositions expected
from English. Some other verbs do not use prepositions where English
would. The preposition must be supplied when translating:
- escuchar (to listen to)
- esperar (to hope for, to wait for)
- mirar (to look at)
- buscar (to look for)
- pagar (to pay for)
- pedir (to ask for)
Words to memorize. Students taking this course have requested
suggestions of words they should study. This is the first of a series of lists
of such suggested words.
How to memorize. The key is repetition.
Gradually eliminate the words you know, to focus on the difficult ones. I have
found that writing words is a very productive exercise. Some techniques:
- Make a list. Write in one column the words in Spanish, in the other column
the translation. Cover up the translation and go down the list of Spanish
words. When there is one you know, cross it off. When a number of words are
crossed off, make a new list with only the problem or difficult words.
- Take small slips of paper and make flash cards, Spanish on one side,
English on the other. As you go through them, set aside the ones you know.
- Flashcard software (not recommended, more time-consuming and less portable
than doing it yourself):
Words to Memorize: Prepositions
||to (but not translated when preceding a person
who is a direct object, or before an infinitive); from (less often)
||faced with (a situation)
||before (earlier than)
||of, from (not translated before an infinitive)
||in front of (location)
||in, on, at (en casa, at home)
||on top of
||by means of
||for (a recipient), in order to
||along, by, for (in place of), in (por la
mañana, in the morning), in exchange for, multiplied by
||on top of, about
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