What are Prepositions of Place?

Prepositions of place, as the name suggests, express where someone or something is. The three most common prepositions used for this specific function are at, in, and on. The locations they can refer to is almost infinite in number.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty of prepositions of place, let’s look at how they’re used in sentences:

– I’m waiting at the bottom of the subway steps.
– Lara grabbed the box when no one was looking and put it in her bag.
– There were about twenty books on Georgie’s bed.

Prepositions of Place Rules

Prepositions require objectsPrepositions have objects, which is the second part that prepositional phrases consist of. There are many sentence structures that break up prepositional phrases (some of which end with prepositions such as questions and the sentence before this one) but their objects are always identifiable. Let’s look at some examples:

– Harry stopped at the intersection of Wellington and Abbot.
– Don’t put anything on the glass.
– There’s a trapped animal in the outhouse.

(Note: there is no grammar rule that prohibits ending sentences with prepositions, despite its popularity. People who say this don’t know what they’re talking about. – this sentence also ends with a preposition.)
PlacementTake another look at the sentences above and pay attention to where the prepositions are. With the exception of some sentence structures, prepositions usually appear before their objects. Below are some more examples:

– There are some eggplants in the greenhouse.
– Someone’s at the door.
– I expect the report to be on my desk first thing tomorrow.
Pronouns as Objects of PrepositionsThe general rule goes that pronouns used as objects of the preposition should always be in the objective case: me, us, you, him, her, it, them. However, this is not so important with prepositions of place as they don’t normally go with people. But in instances when possession or ownership is indicated, we use possessive determiners: is, her, my, your, its, our, and their. For example:

– There was a stranger in her house.
– I have a lot on my plate right now.
– We’ll drop by his place after work.
Table of Rules for Prepositions of Place
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Examples of Prepositions of Place

Let’s discuss each preposition of place more closely and look at how they are used in sentences.

1. At

The preposition “at” is used to refer to locations at a certain spot or point. Sometimes this can be used to refer to a general area (inside or around a place, or around its vicinity) especially when the place is large.

I called Katrina and Jessica and they’re already at the mall.

You’ll find his contact information at the top of the page.

Thick woods lay before us at the end of the road.

We bumped into each other at the bus stop.

They’re at the entrance waiting for you to arrive.

2. In

The preposition “in” is used to refer to spaces or places that are enclosed or covered. It’s also used when referring to countries and cities. When talking about large spaces, “in” can refer to a specific spot.

Tricia’s in London now so you should factor in the time difference.

Look in my wallet. It’s full of debt.

I love that I get a lot of sunlight in my room.

Benjamin grew up in Hanoi but moved to the US when he was 14.

Kiara thought she heard something in the hallway.

3. On

The preposition “on” is used to refer to something’s surface or external parts.

Jin hung my painting on the wall of his apartment.

We heard something heavy drop on the roof.

Excuse me, you left your phone on the counter.

My ex-boyfriend is on the cover of a fashion magazine.

The cat sat on my lap, stretched, and purred contentedly.

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Prepositions of Place Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Prepositions of Place

Choose the right preposition of place from the options given.

1. We met _____ Pattaya last summer.

a. in

b. at

2. Can you check _____ the drawer? I think I left it there.

a. in

b. at

3. I’m _____ the station, so holler when you get here.

a. in

b. at

4. Jacob dropped his bag _____ the ground and ran towards her.

a. in

b. on

5. Louie fell asleep _____ the floor and didn’t realize it.

a. at

b. on


1. a: We met in Pattaya last summer.

2. a: Can you look in the drawer? I think I left it there.

3. b: I’m at the station, so holler when you get here.

4. b: Jacob dropped his bag on the ground and ran towards her.

5. b: Louie fell asleep on the floor and didn’t realize it.

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Prepositions of Place List

Below is a list of standard expressions using at, in, and on:

at home
at work
at the top
at the bottom
at school
at university
at college
at the side
in Lacson Street
in a row
in a car
in a taxi
in a boat
in an elevator
in the newspaper
in the sky
on a motorcycle
on a bus
on a train
on a ship
on a place
on a horse
on television
on the right
Table for At, In, and On

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Use Grammar ListsTools for learning English like lists, tables, and charts can never replace books, but they make excellent guides. They break down problematic grammar concepts into simplified models, patterns, and rules. They also often include sentence examples. An exceptional way to reap the maximum benefits of this type of tool is to create your own lists, which you can personalize according to your learning preferences and language needs.
Use Audio-Visual ResourcesSelf-study is a vital addition to traditional school learning. However, in order to get full advantage, you should use the correct tools. By supplementing your self-directed learning routine with your favorite English language films, TV shows, social media channels, music, and podcasts, you’ll acquire valuable knowledge about how native and non-native English speakers use the language in various contexts: social, academic, and professional. Using English-language media with intention will enhance your understanding of many language elements. This will ultimately improve your vocabulary acquisition and sentence construction skills.
Practical UseUnfortunately for many English language learners, they live or study in places where the English language isn’t accessible or used by the general public. This makes studying English all the more challenging because the only real way to improve is to use it regularly. If you are in the same situation, don’t forget that there are ways to make an environment for yourself. Organizing a study group with classmates and friends will provide a venue to explore language together. More than that, you can cultivate personal relationships with English speakers, native and non-native alike. Consistent English conversations can lead to fluency in ways that can’t be achieved with something else.
Table of Advice for English Learners
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Common Errors Made by English Learners

At, in, and on follow a set of rules that can be confusing to English language learners. Sometimes they can be used interchangeably depending on how you see the place you’re referring to. This is where errors come from. However, there are set expressions with these prepositions that don’t need scrutiny in rules but require memorization. Study the list below to know the rules and avoid applying them incorrectly.

Common ErrorsExplanation/Example
Names of countries or citiesWhile traveling, when we refer to countries and cities as pit stops or points during the journey, we can use “at”. This is usually prefaced with the word “stop” or other synonyms. For example:

– We stopped at Silay and Talisay to pick up our friends.
– The team made a stopover at Tam Dao for refreshments on the way home.
– They stopped at Felis and Twilerdown on their way to Sakara.

On the other hand, if we refer to countries and cities for a temporary but lengthier stay, we use “in.” For example:

– We stayed in Melbourne for two days.
– Mariedith spent the night in Bangkok before her flight back home.
– I think I’ll stay another week in Boracay before going to El Nido.
Company name vs. the kind of workplaceWhen we talk about the company name of someone’s workplace, we use “at.” However, when we talk about the type of company or place where someone works, we use “in.” For example:

– Hwang works at Gucci.
– Hwang works in a high-end retail store.

– Roy works as a manager at Marlboro.
– Roy works as a manager in a tobacco company.
Enclosed vs open spaces  There are certain areas that can be either be found in an open or enclosed space. Make sure you use “on” and “in” correctly. Compare:

– Fred broke the lamp in the corner of the room.
– They took some pictures on the corner of the street.
Using prepositions unnecessarilyHere are some incorrect sentences that many English learners use:

– I came back in home.
– I came back at home.
– I went at home early.
– We visited in the beach.
– The family visited in a zoo.

These types of sentences don’t need prepositions. The correct sentences are:

– I came back home.
– I went home early.
– We visited the beach.
– The family visited a zoo.
Prepositions of Place Common Errors Table

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Prepositions of Place

Prepositions are some of the most commonly used words in English. Because of their quantity and distinctions in meaning, it’s quite a huge challenge to be proficient at using them. Prepositions are rarely studied individually in traditional classroom settings. It’s tedious and time-consuming. Most of the time, English learners learn prepositions through exposure and experience. They hear phrases spoken a certain way and integrate them into their own vocabulary. The following are some best practices to observe when studying and using prepositions of place:

  1. Study English in chunks of language. In most cases, you don’t need to know the intricate technicalities of English, and prepositions are one of the most complex things you will ever study. Listen to and take note of how native speakers use them. Then try them out when you get the chance. Remember that there are standard expressions in English, independent from rules. It’s just the way they say. Why is it “in a car” but “on the bus?” That’s like asking why is the plural of booth not beeth like teeth? Avoid asking “Why do you use that and not this?” Instead, ask “What is the correct way of saying what I want to say?” This is one way to develop fluency naturally.
  2. Prepositions are vast, perhaps not in words but definitely so in meanings. Furthermore, each one can be used with any noun, making almost infinite configurations possible. If you find yourself uncertain about the right prepositions to use, refer to a grammar list or a dictionary.
  3. Remember that you don’t need to use prepositions all the time. If you’re having a hard time picking which preposition is the correct one, you can test out your skills in paraphrasing and reconstructing your sentence in a way that doesn’t need a preposition.
  4. Read, practice, talk. The more prepositional phrases you have acquired, the more accurate you’ll get in choosing not only the proper words but also the proper ways of using them.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand preposition form of manner and forms of prepositions.

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Prepositions of Place Frequently Asked Questions

There are many types of prepositions so there is not one exact way to use them. Generally, think of them as bridges or links that reference the relationship between words in a sentence. They help express things such as time, place, and movement.

These are the prepositions of time, place, movement, measure, manner, source, possession, and agency. If you want to take a more in-depth look at each one of them, feel free to look through our blog. is maintained by language experts that aim to present the English language in its essentials with the student in mind. We have a grammar page that lists all available articles dedicated not only to each type of preposition but to other grammatical concepts as well.

Just like its name suggests, prepositions of place state locations or places where someone or something is, or going to. We use the prepositions at, in, and on for this purpose.

Here are some examples:

– I’m at the store but I don’t see the product you wanted.
– Satu lived in Spain for a while.
– Yvette put her satchel on the ottoman before going to the kitchen.
– The baby spilled milk on the rug.
– Take your time. I’ll wait for you at the entrance.

Any “most common” vocabulary list in English is never absolute. English is constantly evolving, with new words or phrases gaining popularity all the time and later integrated into standard use. Can you remember the time when google became a verb?

Having said that, this list of the 10 most widely used prepositions may change over time. Most books agree that these are in, on, to, for, at, by, from, with, of, and about. One of the main reasons is that each of those prepositions has multiple meanings with each one having a unique functionality.

No. Prepositional phrases are made of prepositions and their objects, which is either a noun or a pronoun. Sometimes the object of a preposition may be a noun clause, which has a verb, but the entire clause technically functions as a noun.

Gerunds, or the present participle forms of verbs, are used as nouns and can be part of a prepositional phrase. But still, they aren’t verbs.

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