Prepositions of movement are used to show the direction somebody or something is moving to, towards, from, out of, etc. These prepositions always describe movement and we usually use them with verbs of motion.
- I am afraid to walk into the forest.
- People normally come in through the door.
Common prepositions of movement
There are many prepositions of movement with different meanings:
Here is a list of the most common prepositions of movement with examples.
To and Towards
TO → movement with the aim of a specific destination, a place or an event, e.g.
- This bus goes to Italy.
The preposition to is sometimes used to indicate a specific position, especially if a person or object is facing something:
- He stood with his back to the window.
Up to is often used to express movement to a person:
- He came up to me asked my name.
TOWARDS → movement in a particular direction.
- The boat moves slowly towards the pier.
To and towards are similar, but to means a specific destination, while towards means that the direction of movement is more important than the idea of a particular destination.
- I’m going to Oxford for a conference.
- I think we’re heading towards Oxford now, we must have gone wrong.
Towards can also be used to indicate a position in relation to a particular direction from the point of view of the speaker:
- Tom stood with his back towards the door.
Through and into
THROUGH → movement across an entire space, from one side of something to another.
- The ball slipped through the goalkeeper’s legs.
INTO → movement from the outside to the inside of an enclosed space; movement resulting in physical contact.
- He got into the car and closed the door.
- She swerved and crashed into the fence.
Across, over and along
ACROSS → movement from one side to the other side of something.
- We have to walk across the bridge.
Across is sometimes used to express position in relation to something which stretches from one side of a place to another.
- There was a barrier across the road.
- The bank is across the street. (here the position is in relation to the speaker)
OVER → movement above and across the top or top surface of something.
- A white tablecloth was spread over the table.
- The plane flew over a mountain range.
ALONG → movement of something in a line that follows the side of something long. It can also show when a group of things are positioned in a line next to something.
- People are marching along the street, celebrating their national holiday.
- There were plenty of restaurants along the riverfront.
In and on/onto
IN → movement towards the inside of a place or area.
- Please, come in!
- Can you put the milk in the fridge?
ON → movement in the direction of a surface.
- We will climb on that mountain tomorrow.
- I dropped my bags on the floor.
ONTO → movement to a position on a surface.
- I slipped as I stepped onto the platform.
- We got onto the ship by the ramp.
Other prepositions of movement
AWAY FROM / FROM → indication of the point where a movement begins.
- The mouse ran away from the cat and escaped.
- I’ll return from my trip tomorrow afternoon.
BETWEEN → movement at, into, or across the space separating (two objects or areas).
- Look! The mouse ran between two chairs!
BY / PAST → movement further than something; from one side to the other side of something.
- You will pass by some ancient buildings during your excursion.
- We will go past several beautiful buildings.
DOWN → movement from a higher point to a lower point of something .
- Tom fell down the hill.
FROM → indication of the point where a movement begins.
- I’ll return from my trip tomorrow afternoon.
OFF → movement away from (and often down from) something.
- What are you doing on the tree? Get off immediately!
OUT OF → indication of the enclosed space where a movement begins.
- A jolly crowd walked out of the bar.
ROUND / AROUND → movement passing something in a curved route, not going through it.
- It will take about 3 hours to go around the city center.
UNDER → movement directly below something.
- Let’s hide under those beautiful apple trees.
UP → movement from a lower point to a higher point of something.
- You should go up the main street to get to the central square.
Tips to use prepositions of movement
1. Use ‘to’ after the verbs of movement — ‘go’, ‘walk’, ‘come’, ‘fly’, ‘travel’:
- Sandy is travelling to Brazil.
- let’s go to the cinema.
2. But, don’t use ‘to’ after ‘visit’ and ‘arrive’. Use ‘arrive at’ with regular places and ‘arrive in’ with very big places, like cities and countries:
- Yesterday I visited my aunt (NOT visited to my aunt).
- Please check in, when you arrive at the hotel (NOT arrive to the hotel).
- The famous singer arrived in Amsterdam (NOT arrived to Amsterdam).
3. Use ‘by’ to show how you move or travel:
- We can go there by train or by car.
- It is faster by plane.
Here’s a good video from 7ESL showing the meanings of prepositions of movement in pictures:
Read more about prepositions: