PREPOSITIONS in English: Under, Below, Beneath, Underneath


Hi, everybody.

Welcome back to

I'm Adam.

Today's video is about the prepositions: "under", "below", "beneath", and "underneath".

Now, I know that some people have a problem distinguishing or knowing which one to use

in what context, so we're going to look at all of them and see which situations call

for which prepositions, and which situations you can mix them up.

Because in many cases you can use "under" or "beneath", for example, or: "under" or


So, some situations you can mix them; other situations you can't.

So let's start with "under".

When do I use "under"?

When we talk about a lower level or a lower layer, in terms of space, like...

So, "spatial" is the adjective of "space", so when we're comparing space, one is lower

than the other.


But, so...

"The ball rolled under the car."

Generally, when we have some sort of movement, we're going to use probably "under", although

we can sometimes say: "The ball rolled beneath the car."

We're going to look at the difference between "under" and "beneath" after.

So, in this case, you can use: "under", you can use other ones.

But in a situation...

Now, when I say: "situation" or "condition", it's usually about people.


When somebody is feeling a particular thing or is in a particular condition or state of

mind, we're going to use "under".

So: "He's under a lot of pressure", means it's the weight of the condition is making

him down or is heavy on top of him.


So: "He's under a lot of pressure."


When we talk about age or quantity, we're going to use: "under", not the other prepositions.

"This bar is popular among the under-40 crowd."

Basically, "under" means less than or fewer than-right?-when we're talking about numbers.

In terms of quantity: "Under 20 people actually showed up to the party", means less than;

fewer than 20 people showed up.

We can also use "under" as a prefix, means we can add it to under...

Other words.


We can use it to under...

Other words...

Not "underwear"; I have underwear on my mind.

Other words, and basically mean make them less; weakened, or less than, or other situations.

So: "underweight".

If someone is underweight, they are less than the healthy weight.


So this is the...

What you should be, and if you're underweight, you're pretty thin.


You should eat more.

If you "underestimate"...

So, you notice I can use it with a noun or with a verb, or adjective.

I'll give you other examples after.

If you underestimate something or someone, means you don't give them enough credit; you

don't appreciate them or it at the place where it should be.

So, again, not enough.

"Under" can also mean not enough.

Now, let's look at "below".

So we looked about lower level, etc.

When we use "below", we're still talking about relation of two things; one is lower than

the other, but it's important to remember that usually it's on the same plane.

Now, "on the same plane" means the same spot in space.

So if something is here and something is here, we don't say: "This is below that."

We can say: "It's under this", in terms of the rankings-okay?-but we don't say it's below.

So, the word "below" is written below the word "under", because why?

We're on the same plane; we're looking at the whiteboard.

It's the same space and I have the same line, so this is below that.


It's not under it; it's below it, in terms of the plane.

We also can use "below" when we look at a reference point; in relation to a reference


Now, what do I mean by "reference point"?

Here's the point where things get compared to.

For example, average.

"Average" is a reference point; it is not the highest, it is not the lowest.

It is a combination of all the things on the spectrum or whatever, whatever you're comparing,

and we take the average spot which is technically between highest and lowest.

So, if we're talking about cars and I'm looking at buying a new car, and I'm looking at all

the different makers, like Mercedes, I'm looking at Toyota, whatever - I look at all the prices,

I add them all up, divide by the number of cars, and that's the average price of a new


So, now, do I want to spend somewhere below average or somewhere above average?

So we use "below" with the reference point.

More than this point, less than.

"Below standards", so every company or every product has a certain standard; it must be

at least this good.

If it is below standard means it's not very good; it needs to be fixed, or replaced, or

just thrown out.


Now, another...

Going back to the same plane, I forgot to mention: "The apartment below".

So if I...

Talking about my neighbour: "below".


Because we're on the same plane in the building.


We're in the same line, and he is below me; there is a space between us.





I just will say, you can say: "The people in the apartment underneath", but we're going

to talk about "underneath" in a second.

Let's talk about "beneath" first.

In many cases, "beneath" and "under" can be mixed; are interchangeable.

You can use either one.

"Beneath" is just considered more formal than "under".

It's a little bit prettier, it's a little bit more sophisticated; they mean the same


But generally speaking, when we're talking about something is a lower level, but it is

touching, then we're going to use "beneath", if there's a certain touch.

Or if we're talking about the surface and something is under that surface, we're going

to use "beneath".

So: "Beneath the sea".


The wire for this microphone is beneath my shirt.

It's also under my shirt; we can use either way.

But, generally, if it's under a surface or if it's touching, we use "beneath".


Like something that is masked, like we're talking about, again, people, they have emotions,

their feelings - they have...

They're hiding them, and what they have in the front for people to see is like a mask.


That's why I said: "mask".

So when we're talking about: "What's behind the mask?" we generally use "beneath".

"There's a sad person beneath that happy face."

Sometimes you can use "behind", sometimes you can use "beneath" because it's really

under the skin; beneath the skin, beneath the surface.


And when we're talking about level in terms of status.

So, I am a politician and somebody accuses me of doing something, and I think that is

such a crazy accusation, I'm not even going to answer.

That's beneath me.

It's beneath my social level.

If I go beneath my level, that means I'm coming to that person's level, which is really bad.

So if something is beneath me, it is beneath my social level.

If something is beneath contempt, or beneath my dignity, or beneath dignity, it means it

is not worth my time; not only to answer it, or to even think about it.

I'm not...

I'm not even going to get angry at the accusation because that's...

That would make me as guilty as the person who made the accusation.

So, this is a very common use of "beneath".

Now, "underneath" is not a combination of "under" and "beneath".

It's basically a more formal way of saying "under"; it is more emphatic.


So if I say: "The ball rolled under the car", I could say: "The ball rolled underneath the

car", but I wouldn't normally.

People don't use "underneath" as often as they use "under".


Now, you can say underneath, something is touching, so: The puppy or the...

I have a puppy and he jumped on to my bed, and: "Oh, where is he?

I can't find him.

Oh, he's underneath the blanket."


"He's under the blanket" also works.

It's a bit more formal.

So, now that we have the general idea of when to use these words, let's look at some sample

sentences where you can mix them up.

Okay, so we're going to look at a few sample sentences.

Now, what I want you to see is that these words are sometimes interchangeable; and I

can write many, many more samples, but they will all basically say the same thing.

So: "He has five layers on under that jacket/beneath that jacket/underneath that jacket".

So imagine you're in...

Living in Canada in the winter, you have a jacket, under the jacket you have a sweater,

under the sweater you have a turtle neck, under the turtle neck you have a t-shirt,

under the t-shirt you have a tank top.

In Canada, you have to layer; you have to have many layers to keep all the heat inside.

So: "He has five layers under that jacket", because it's underneath/beneath/underneath.

All of them mean basically the same thing; you can use any one you like.

"Beneath/underneath" more formal; this one, a little bit more emphasis.

"The people in the apartment underneath", means directly underneath because it's touching;

or: "The people in the apartment under us", because technically it's lower level; "The

people in the apartment below us", because we're on the same plane - we're on the same

area in terms of space...

Vertical space.

So: "The people in the apartment underneath us are so noisy."

Any one of these will work.

And, again, the key is to remember that it's about the person who is listening to you,

or the person who is reading what you're writing.

As long as they understand it, there's no such thing as right or wrong answer.

"Did you deliver the message clearly?

Yes or no?"

That's what you need to worry about.

So, if you use either one, in this case, you're okay.

"Tom is below Jane in the rankings."

Now, notice I only used "below".

Can I say: "under", can I say: "beneath"?


In this case, rankings is basically a socially ranking; or in terms of sports, it's a placement.

So in this case it's "below" because they're on the same list; they're on the same plane.


Where are we?

"You might find the book under that pile of laundry/beneath that pile of laundry/underneath

that pile of laundry".

So, here's the laundry, all piled up, and under it or beneath it because it's touching,

or underneath it because it's touching, are the books.

Go digging, and you'll find them.

So, again, in most cases, you can interchange.

If you want to be very, very precise and very, very specific, figure out which situations

calls for which situations, which prepositions, and use those.

So, I hope this was all very clear, and I hope you understood it and liked this lesson.

If you did, please subscribe to my YouTube channel.

And if you have any questions, please go to

There's a forum there; you can ask me all the questions you have and I'll be happy to

answer them.

There's also a quiz on the engVid site where you can test your knowledge of these words.

And yeah, come back again; see us soon, and we'll learn some more English together.


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