Preposition of place

What is a preposition of place?

Linguists and grammarians offer a range of different classifications of prepositions. Some divide them along the lines of place, time and movement; others maintain that they are best divided by place, time and a larger category for everything else.

Some grammarians believe that there are only three prepositions of place (on, at and in), and that the same three words double as the only prepositions of time. This seems highly unlikely, and others will add a long list of prepositions that also indicate the location of the subject (above, between, beside, in front of, etc.).

Prepositions themselves have originated, mostly, from words describing locations, ideas of time evolving from ideas of place. Before originally indicated something in front of the complement: for example, is this a dagger I see before me? After has a similar origin, similar to the word aft used when talking about the rear of a boat or aircraft. It seems easy to imagine the logical leap that was made.

The definition of a preposition of place is a preposition (or phrase) that indicates where something is located, which makes sense. It differs from the preposition of movement, which assumes that there is some travel from somewhere else into the complement’s location. Some would describe in as a preposition of place (standing in the sea) to distinguish it from into as a preposition of movement (running into the sea).

Examples of prepositions of place and time

A lot of the most common prepositions fulfill both functional roles.

In in the bedroom in the summer
at at the home of football at six o’clock
on on the train home on Sunday afternoon
to to the front door three minutes to midnight
between between the church and the shops between eight and noon today