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.

Resources for further reading:

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

Investigating 'a'

The word a is one of the all-time useful Spanish words. You'll hear it everywhere, wither alone of combined with el to form the contraction al.

In addition to these ordinary usages, a can also be used as a command.

Read the following story about Carlos' trip to Lima, Peru, and look at teh number of ways in which the word a is used.

  1. Carlos iba a Lima.

Carlos was going to Lima.

  1. Él subió al tren.

He got on the train.

  1. Llegó a la ciudad.

He arrived in the city.

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

His hotel was to the right of the train station.

  1. A la una almorzó.

At one o’clock he had lunch.

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

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

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

He bought a souvenir from a lady in the market.

  1. Mandó un postal a su novia.

He sent a postcard to his girlfriend.

  1. Fue a dormir.

He went to sleep.

Below are some more examples:

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¡Al auto!

To the car!

Llegó a la ciudad.

He arrived in the city.

Don't forget that Spanish also requires you to add an a when a human being serves as the direct or indirect object of a sentence.

Por ejemplo (for example):

Le di el regalo a mi sobrino.

I gave the gift to my nephew.

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:

Uses of de Examples Translation
Possession Los padres de Sara Sarah’s parents
El negocio del 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.”

Uses of en Examples Translation
Time en el verano in the summer
en un minuto in a minute
en la mañana in the morning
El queso es de Gales. The cheese is from Wales.
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 can be used:

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

    Caminamos hacia la luz.We walked towards the light.

  • 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 abajo - down, downwards

    hacia adelante - forwards

    hacia arriba - up, upwards

    hacia atrás - back, backwards

Take a look at some examples below:

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.

Vi a mi hermana caminando rápidamente hacia mí.

I saw my sister walking rapidly towards me.

El atleta corría hacia atrás para agarrar la pelota.

The athlete ran backwards to catch the ball.

¿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:

Con todo lo que trabajé,

With all the work I did,

todavía no podía ahorrar suficiente dinero

I still couldn't save enough money

para comprarme un auto.

to buy myself a car.

¡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!

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 or ti, the words merge together to form a contraction.

con + = conmigo

con + ti = contigo

Hopefully this cleared up some of your confusion. Feel free to take a look at lessons on other Spanish Prepositions:

See you soon! ¡Hasta pronto!

Mauricio Evlampieff: Rocket Spanish

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