Compound Prepositions

A preposition that is composed of more than one word is called a compound preposition. The last word of a compound preposition is always one of the simple prepositions, so compound prepositions are easy to recognize. You will notice that many of the following compound prepositions are formed with a directional word and the simple preposition de. Remember that if a directional word is used without de, it is no longer considered a preposition.

Idiomatic usage

One of the most frustrating aspects of learning a foreign language is that often you can look up every word individually, but when you put them together they make no sense. When a group of words has a meaning separate from the individual words of which it is composed, it is called an idiomatic expression. Most idiomatic expressions include at least one preposition. It is important to learn to use the correct preposition in an idiomatic expression because a different preposition can completely change the meaning of the expression.

A lot of idiomatic expressions include the preposition por. You must memorize each expression because none logically follows any of the rules for using por. The following is a list of important idiomatic expressions that include the preposition por.

Here are some idiomatic expressions using the preposition para:

Here are some idiomatic expressions using the preposition a:

Any verb can be used after the preposition a + el (al) in its infinitive form to mean “upon (verb)-ing.”

The following list contains idiomatic expressions using the preposition con:

Here are some idiomatic expressions using the preposition de:

The following list presents idiomatic expressions using the preposition en:

Here are some idiomatic expressions using the preposition sin:

Verbs with prepositions

Another idiomatic usage of prepositions is with verbs. Certain Spanish verbs require that a specific preposition always follow any form of the verb. After the preposition, there may be a noun or another verb. If a verb follows the preposition, it must be in the infinitive form, regardless of how the English equivalent is stated. In English, the second verb will often be in its infinitive form, as in Spanish; sometimes, however, the second verb is in its gerund form, with the ‐ing ending (for example, “He limits himself to watching the games because of his injury” or “She risks losing everything”).

Acertar a (in the third list, below) is a good example because there are two ways to translate it. Él acierta a terminar su tarea can be translated as “He manages to finish his homework” or as “He succeeds in finishing his homework”; in both English phrases, when translated back into Spanish, the verb that follows a form of acertar a will be in its infinitive form.

The verbs below are always followed by the preposition that follows in the list, even though English might use a different preposition.

Here is a list of verbs followed by the preposition por:

Below is an example of a verb followed by the preposition para:

This list contains verbs followed by the preposition a:

This list contains verbs followed by the preposition de:

The following list contains verbs followed by the preposition en:

This list contains verbs followed by the preposition


To help you learn which preposition follows each of the verbs in the lists above, put all the verbs that must be followed by a specific pronoun on one color of flashcard and those followed by another preposition on a different color; in this way, your brain will subliminally register the color and help you remember the appropriate preposition. When you quiz yourself, rewrite both sets of verbs on all white cards to see if you can remember which preposition goes with each verb, as well as to see whether you understand what the verb expression means.