How to use prepositions of place and movement in Spanish?

A sports car in front of a beach.
As you know, prepositions are important words because they connect nouns, pronouns, or phrases to other words in a sentence. Previously, we talked about Spanish prepositions of time. Today, we’ll cover prepositions of place and movement, which can be used to indicate distance, location, direction, position, etc. You may be surprised to learn that some prepositions of time can also describe place and movement. Curious? Let’s get to it!

Table of Contents

Spanish prepositions of place and movement

The Spanish prepositions of place and movements are: a, hacia, de, desde, hasta, en, entre, por, sobre, ante, bajo, contra, and tras. Let’s take a look at each one!


Has someone ever asked you for directions? I’m terrible at giving them, but one thing I can do well is tell people how near or far a place is. And for that, I use the preposition a:

El museo está a 500 metros de aquí.
The museum is 500 meters from here.

Now, imagine you’re meeting your friends for coffee and one of them says:

Nos vemos a la entrada del café. 
See you by the coffee shop entrance.

Here, we’re indicating a situation based on a reference point; in this case, the coffee shop entrance. 

You can also use the preposition a (to) to indicate the ending point of a journey or movement, or the direction towards a place:

Voy a la tienda. ¿Necesitas algo? 
I’m going to the store. Do you need anything?


If you’re using a in front of the definite article el and a singular masculine noun, as in, el museo (museum), don’t forget to use the contraction al (a + el):


Voy al museo el próximo viernes.
I’m going to the museum next Friday.

You’ll frequently see a used after verbs that express movement to indicate final destination or direction. If you don’t know these verbs, make sure you check out our list in the link above!


When talking about direction, we use hacia (towards). This is a useful word if you want to tell people where they need to go to or to where something is headed: 

Para llegar al café, camina hacia el parque.
To get to the coffee shop, walk towards the park.

⤷TIP If you want to focus on the direction, use hacia; if you want to focus on the final destination, use a.


Similar to hacia, we can use the preposition para (to) to indicate a destination in space:

Voy para Costa Rica mañana. 
I’m going to Costa Rica tomorrow.


Let’s discuss the following examples:

Este tren va hacia el centro.
This train goes towards downtown.

Este tren va para el centro.
This train goes downtown.

Can you spot the difference? If we use hacia (towards), we’re focusing on the direction of the movement. If we use para (to), it indicates a final destination. Interesting, isn’t it?

‘De’ and ‘desde’

Just like you can use de and desde to indicate the starting moment of an action, we can also use them to indicate the starting point of a journey or movement.

Salgo de Santiago el lunes a las 5. 
I leave (from) Santiago on Monday at 5.

Salgo desde Santiago el lunes a las 5. 
I leave (from) Santiago on Monday at 5.

There’s a slight difference we need to consider here: although both prepositions can be used to indicate the starting point, desde emphasizes the movement away from or the distance from the point  of origin. In the second example, the speaker wants to emphasize the distance traveled as opposed to only stating the point of origin.


If you’re using de in front of the definite article el and a singular masculine noun, for example, el supermercado (supermarket), don’t forget to use the contraction del (de + el):

Voy del supermercado a tu casa.
I’m going from the supermarket to your house.

The preposition de can also be used in Spanish to indicate the place of something: 

En la tienda de la esquina venden helados. 
They sell ice cream at the shop around the corner.


If you want to indicate where a particular journey ends, use a or hasta to do it! Keep in mind that while both are translated as “to,” a indicates direction and hasta destination. Use hasta if you want to be precise in regards to the end of your journey. As such, hasta can also be translated as “as far as.”

Mi vuelo es directo hasta la Ciudad de México.
My flight is direct to Mexico City.


The useful combinations de… a… and desde… hasta… can be used in Spanish to talk about the starting and ending point of a journey or movement.

Viajo de Santiago a la Ciudad de México el lunes.
I’m traveling from Santiago to Mexico City on Monday.

Viajo desde Santiago hasta la Ciudad de México el lunes.
I’m traveling from Santiago to Mexico City on Monday.



Did you know en (in, at, on) is one of the most common prepositions in Spanish? We use it all the time when we want to indicate the general location of a person or object:

 La maleta está en el suelo. 
The suitcase is on the floor.

Camilo vive en Costa Rica.
Camilo lives in Costa Rica.

Estamos en el parque. 
We’re at the park.

Did you notice how there are many uses of this preposition? The good news is, in Spanish, you only have to remember one preposition instead of three different ones (on/in/at) like in English!

Just as with a and de, some verbs of movement need the preposition en (in), especially if you want to introduce a means of transportation. Don’t forget to take a look at our list of verbs of movement!


Entre (between) is a preposition that can be used to indicate an intermediate place:

El teatro queda entre la galería de arte y el café.
The theater is between the art gallery and the coffee shop.


This versatile Spanish preposition is the equivalent of the English “through” and can also mean “around” to indicate an approximate place.

El tren va por el túnel.
The train goes through the tunnel.

Ayer estuve por el centro.
Yesterday I was around downtown.


If you want to say that something is “on” or “above” something else, then you can say it accurately by using sobre:

El dinero está sobre la mesa.
The money is on the table.

El avión vuela sobre la ciudad.
The airplane flies above the city.


This preposition is close in meaning to “in front of” or “facing,” so we always use it to indicate location:

Ana cantó ante 300 personas. 
Ana sang in front of 300 people.


With this one, we can talk about the location of people or things “under” or “beneath” something else:

Los carros pasan bajo el puente.
The cars go under the bridge.


This preposition is used if you want to specify that something or someone is located in contact with or leaning against something or someone else.

La caja está contra la pared. 
The box is against the wall.


As a preposition of place, tras is similar in meaning to detrás de (behind):

El estacionamiento está tras ese edificio. 
The parking lot is behind that building.

Compound prepositions

Finally, in Spanish, we have a set of compound prepositions that are very useful when we want to indicate the location of a person, animal, or object in relation to another one:

Te dejo el computador encima de la mesa.
I’m leaving the computer on the table.

I’m sure you want to know more about compound prepositions. That’s why we’ve created this cheat-sheet with useful combinations and examples of Spanish compound prepositions.

In summary

As you can see, prepositions of place and movement in Spanish don’t always translate to only one preposition in English. To help you remember things easily, we’ve prepared this printable for you, which includes a summary of Spanish prepositions with examples in context Can’t get enough of Spanish prepositions? Then check out our other posts on the difference between por and para, the most common Spanish prepositions,  and how to use prepositions with Spanish interrogatives. Ready to practice? How about working on this exercise we’ve designed? Happy learning! 
Are you interested in learning more about Spanish Grammar? Check out our Spanish Grammar Homepage.
Meet The Author:
Natalia Molina
Natalia Molina Ceballos
Spanish Coach
Natalia is a Spanish coach at Mango Languages.

To embark on your next language adventure, join the Mango fam!

Extra Resources:

Compound prepositions table
Prepositions table
Verbs of movement table


Prepositions activity


Prepositions activity

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