Compound Prepositions in Spanish
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Get to Know the Compound Prepositions in Spanish

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Compound Prepositions in Spanish TW

¡Hola! You may have heard of prepositions, but do you know what Spanish compound prepositions are? Read on to find out more.

What is a Spanish compound preposition?

The first thing we need to know is what an ordinary preposition is! Prepositions are usually small words, which show the relationship between two parts of a sentence. They often refer to location, movement, direction, or time. 

A compound preposition is a composition of words including a preposition, e.g. ‘encima de’. In Spanish, these prepositional phrases are known as ‘locuciones preposicionales.’ The whole phrase acts as a single preposition.

The most likely forms that you’ll come across are ‘preposition + noun + preposition’ and ‘adverb + preposition.’

In this article, we’ll go through some of the most common Spanish compound prepositions!

Common Spanish Compound Prepositions: Location

  • encima de/por encima de = on (top of)
Mis manos están encima de la mesa.My hands are on the table.
  • debajo de/por debajo de = under/underneath
Mis pies están debajo de la mesa.My feet are underneath the table.
  • enfrente de/frente a/delante de/por delante de = in front of/opposite
Siéntate enfrente de mí.Sit opposite me.
Pasé media hora maquillándome delante del espejo.I spent half an hour doing my makeup in front of the mirror.
  • detrás de = behind
¡Allí está mi ex con su nueva novia! Vamos a escondernos detrás de ese árbol.There’s my ex with his new girlfriend! We’re going to hide behind that tree.
  • dentro de/adentro de = in/inside
Dentro de poco tiempo, se rindió.Before long (in a short time), he gave up.
¡Ay, encerré mis llaves en mi coche!Ah, I locked my keys in my car!
  • fuera de*/afuera de = outside
¡El lobo está afuera de la casa!The wolf is outside the house!
No tengo ninguno pasatiempo fuera de*l fútbol.I don’t have any hobbies apart from soccer.

*‘Fuera de’ can also carry a figurative meaning of ‘apart from.’

  • alrededor de = around
Tengo amigos alrededor del mundo.I have friends all around the world.
Creo que el ladrón tenía alrededor de* 40 años.I think the robber was around 40 years old.

Alrededor de’ can have a figurative meaning, too, not just physical location.

  • al lado de = next to
Su casa está al lado de la tienda vegana.
Her house is next to the vegan shop.
  • cerca de = near/close to
Mi oficina está cerca del gimnasio. My office is close to the gym.
  • lejos de = far from
Quiero que estéis lejos de mí.I want you (plural) to be far away from me.

Common Spanish Compound Prepositions:Time

  • a principios de = at the beginning of
A principios del siglo 21, la tecnología se avanzó muchísimo.At the beginning of the 21st century, technology advanced massively.
  • a finales de = at the end of
Voy de vacaciones a finales de agosto.I’m going on vacation at the end of August.
  • antes de = before
Antes de ejercer, hay que estirar.Before exercising, you have to stretch.

Sometimes, we can have whole clauses following the compound preposition, e.g.

Antes de que nos vayamos, quiero darle las gracias a Julia.Before we leave, I want to thank Julia.

Notice that the ‘que’ here triggers the subjunctive!

  • después de/luego de* = after
Es importante relajarse después de un día largo.It’s important to unwind after a long day.

*‘Luego de’ is a nice Latin American alternative.

  • a la hora de = when it comes to
A la hora de hablar de cosas serias, me pongo a reír.When it comes to talking about serious things, I start laughing.
  • a eso de = (at) around
Llegaré a eso de las 9.I’ll arrive around 9.
  • a punto de = about to
Estaba a punto de comer, cuando sonó el teléfono.I was about to eat, when the phone rang.
  • a partir de = from/as of
A partir de hoy, no soy fumador.As of today, I’m not a smoker.
  • a lo largo de = throughout/over (the course of)/along
He visto cosas horribles a lo largo de los años.I have seen horrible things over the years.
Había basura a lo largo del camino.There was trash all along the path.

Common Spanish Compound Prepositions: Reason

  • a causa de/por causa de/debido a = because of/due to
Lo despidieron a causa de sus proprias acciones.He was fired due to his own actions.
  • a raíz de = as a result of/with … as its root cause
Tuve que mudarme del piso a raíz de los problemas que tuve con el dueño.I had to move out of the apartment as a result of the problems I had with the landlord.

Others

  • de acuerdo con = in accordance with
¡Hiciste la trampa! Hay que jugar al tenis de acuerdo con las reglas.You cheated! You have to play tennis in accordance with the rules.
  • a favor de = in favor of
Estoy a favor de la igualdad.I’m in favor of equality.
  • en contra de = against
Mi hermano está en contra de la tauromaquia, pero a mí me gusta.My brother is against bullfighting, but I like it.
  • con respecto a = regarding/with respect to
Quisiera hablar con usted con respecto a su cuenta bancaria.I would like to speak to you (formal) regarding your bank account.
  • en cuanto a = with regard to/as for
En cuanto a la cirugía, tengo mucha confianza en el médico.As for the surgery, I have a lot of confidence in the doctor.
  • en busca de = in search of
Estoy en busca de empleo.I’m searching for work.
  • bajo (la) condición de que* = on the condition that
Vengo al museo bajo la condición de que vayamos después al cine.I’ll come to the museum on the condition that we go to the movies after.

*Use the subjunctive with this one!

  • además de = in addition to
Además de inglés, hablo un poco de español.In addition to English, I speak a bit of Spanish.
  • a falta de = in the absence of
A falta de pan, buenas son las tortas.Half a loaf is better than none.

This is an idiom which literally translates as ‘in the absence of bread, cakes are good.’ You can find more Spanish idioms and proverbs on the blog!

  • a excepción de = with the exception of
Odio a todos a excepción de ti.I hate everyone except you.
  • en lugar de/en vez de = instead of
Vamos al gimnasio en lugar de quedarnos en casa.We’re going to the gym instead of staying at home.
  • no obstante = however (use in essays, not so much in everyday speech!)
Los resultados fueron claros. No obstante, los científicos los ignoraron.The results were clear. However, the scientists ignored them.
  • a través de = through
Nos comunicamos a través del internet.We communicate through the internet.
Me he mantenido sana a través de unos años difíciles.I have kept myself healthy through/over some difficult years.

Quiz

Pick the most appropriate translation for each!

1. I moved schools because I got bullied.

     a. Cambié de colegio no obstante me acosaron.

     b. Cambié de colegio antes de que me acosaron.

     c. Cambié de colegio a causa de que me acosaron.

Click to reveal the correct answer:

c. Cambié de colegio a causa de que me acosaron.

2. He’s behind you.

     a. Está detrás de ti.

     b. Está enfrente de ti.

     c. Está lejos de ti.

Click to reveal the correct answer:

a. Está detrás de ti.

3. When it came to overcoming a challenge, Belle excelled.

     a. A través de superar un reto, Belle sobresalió.

     b. A la hora de superar un reto, Belle sobresalió.

     c. A excepción de superar un reto, Belle sobresalió.

Click to reveal the correct answer:

b. A la hora de superar un reto, Belle sobresalió.

4. I’m outside the gym. Apart from that, I don’t do any exercise.

     a. Estoy afuera del gimnasio. Fuera de eso, no hago ningún ejercicio.

     b. Estoy fuera del gimnasio. Afuera de eso, no hago ningún ejercicio.

     c. Estoy al lado del gimnasio. Debajo de eso, no hago ningún ejercicio.

Click to reveal the correct answer:

a. Estoy afuera del gimnasio. Fuera de eso, no hago ningún ejercicio.

5. As well as being a loving person, Brayden was a funny guy.

     a. En cuanto a ser una persona cariñosa, Brayden era un tipo chistoso.

     b. De acuerdo con ser una persona cariñosa, Brayden era un tipo chistoso.

     c. Además de ser una persona cariñosa, Brayden era un tipo chistoso.

Click to reveal the correct answer:

c. Además de ser una persona cariñosa, Brayden era un tipo chistoso.

Great work!

Hopefully today we’ve shown you some of the most common compound prepositions, and you can go ahead and start using them!

About the Author Annabel Beilby

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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