Spanish Prepositions - A, DE, EN, HACIA, and CON

In the section on Prepositional Pronouns, you learned that prepositions are connecting words that indicate location as well as placement in time. They include words like “about, above, across, after, against, along, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond...” and so on.

You have already become used to using many prepositions in Spanish. The direction words that you learned in the section on The Spanish Verb ESTAR (such as en, entre, detrás, adelante) were prepositions. Other Spanish prepositions that you have been using without realizing it are a and de.

It is useful to go back to these prepositions and take a second look, as they can have multiple meanings depending on the context. In this lesson, we’ll look at a, de, en, hacia, and con. You will hear these words all the time in a variety of contexts. Unfortunately, there is no single meaning in English for any of them.

Preposition

Translation

a

to, at, from, by, on, for, upon

con

with, to

de

of, about, on, with, because of, by, at

en

in, on, at

hacia

towards, to, at about or around

1. Carlos iba a Lima.

1. Carlos was going to Lima.

2. Él subió al tren.

2. He got on the train.

3. Llegó a la ciudad.

3. He arrived in the city.

4. Su hotel estaba a la derecha de la estación del tren.

4. His hotel was to the right of the train station.

5. A la una almorzó.

5. At one o’clock he had lunch.

6. Al terminar de comer, recorrió
la ciudad a pie.

6. Upon finishing eating, he went round the city on foot.

7. Compró un recuerdo a una
señora en el mercado.

7. He bought a souvenir from a lady in the market.

8. Mandó un postal a su novia.

8. He sent a postcard to his girlfriend.

9. Fue a dormir.

9. He went to sleep.

Por ejemplo:

Por ejemplo:

Examples of ‘de’

The preposition de is also widely used in Spanish for a variety of purposes. In general, it means “of” or “from,” although it can be used to indicate possession, origin, type, composition, and more. Let’s look at some uses.

Possession
los padres de Sara - Sarah’s parents
el negocio de Señor Goodwin - Mr. Goodwin’s business

Origin
Él es de argentina. - He is from Argentina.
El queso es de Gales. - The cheese is from Wales.

Subject
un libro de español - a Spanish book
una compañía de computadoras - a computer company
Ella sabe todo de las matemáticas. - She knows everything about math.

Position Phrases
encima de - on top of
al lado de - beside

From Here to There
de aquí a Miami - from here to Miami
de una cosa a otra - from one thing to another

Parts
un pedazo de manzana - a piece of apple
un poco de crema - a little cream

Time
de día - by day
de sábado a domingo - from Saturday to Sunday

Cause
morir de risas - to die of laughter
gritar de frustración - to shout from frustration

Composition
Está hecho de lana. - It’s made of wool.
una camisa de seda - a silk shirt
carne de res - beef

Looking at ‘en’

En is another useful, all-purpose word that can be used to express “in,” “on,” “by.”

Time
en el verano - in the summer
en un minuto - in a minute
en la mañana - in the morning

Place
Estamos en casa. - We are at home.
Entramos en la casa. - We enter the house.
Hablamos en el bus. - We talk on the bus.
Caminamos en el bosque. - We walk in the forest.

Method of Travel
Voy en tren. - I go by train.
Viajo en avión. - I travel by plane.
Cruzo el océano en barco. - I cross the ocean by boat.

Mode
Hablas en español. - You speak in Spanish.
Estás en serio. - You are serious.

Subject
Eres bueno en las lenguas. - You are good at languages.
Eres experto en los negocios. - You are expert in business.

Understanding ‘hacia’

First of all, don’t make the mistake of confusing hacía with hacia! Hacia is one of those words that will change its meaning completely depending on whether it has an accent mark or not.

hacia is a preposition that means “towards” or “to”
hacía is the third person singular form of the verb hacer in the imperfect.

The preposition hacia is used:

to express the direction of movement (in which it means towards or to)

to express the roughness of a time estimate (where it can mean around or about)
Te llamo hacia las tres. - I’ll call you about three.
or in the following phrases:

hacia abajodown, downwards
hacia adelante forwards
hacia arriba up, upwards
hacia atrás back, backwards

Por ejemplo:

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Tenemos que caminar hacia el parque para llegar a la casa de Juan.
We have to walk towards the park to go to John’s house.
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Vi a mi hermana caminando rápidamente hacia mí.
I saw my sister walking rapidly towards me.
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El atleta corría hacia atrás para agarrar la pelota.
The athlete ran backwards to catch the ball.
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¿Qué dices si te encuentro hacia las ocho?
What do you say if I meet you around eight o’clock?

More with ‘con’

Most of the time, con will mean “with.”
As a result, you’ll find it quite easy to use.

Por ejemplo:

But con has several other uses as well. You can also use “con” to express surprise at a known statement or simply to emphasize the importance of something or someone.

Por ejemplo:

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Con todo lo que trabajé, todavía no podía ahorrar suficiente dinero para comprarme un auto.
With all the work I did, I still couldn’t save enough money to buy myself a car.
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¡Con todo lo que he hecho por ti, igual no me quieres!
With all that I’ve done for you, you still don’t love me!
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Con tantas cosas que compré para el picnic, ¡está lloviendo!
With everything I bought for the picnic, it’s raining!

The following usages of con are a bit more specialized. You’ll recognize them from their context.

Don’t forget that when con is followed by either mí or ti, the words merge together to form a contraction.

con + mí = conmigo
con + ti = contigo

In the next section we'll talk about Spanish Prepositions Part 2: DESDE, ENTRE, SIN and HASTA.

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