Prepositions of Movement - Visual Vocabulary Lesson


Hi, I’m Oli.

Welcome to Oxford Online English!

In this lesson, you can learn about prepositions of movement, likearound’, ‘past’,

towards’, ‘throughand more.

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Now, let’s look at how to use prepositions of movement in English.

Aroundcan have two different meanings.

First, ‘aroundcan meanin a circleThe train is going around the track.

The earth revolves around its axis.’

Aroundcan also meanin different directions’.

For example, if you saywe walked around the city centre’, you mean that you walked

to different parts of the centre.

Here’s another example.

He looked around to check that everything seemed OK.

He looked *around*, so he looked in different directions.

Left, right, up, and so on.

Alongmeansin a straight lineplusparallel tosomething.

She’s walking along the stream.

The woman walked along the street.

He’s cycling along the road.

Instead ofalongyou can often useupordowninstead in conversational English.

For example, instead ofHe’s cycling along the road’, you could sayHe’s

cycling up the road,’ orHe’s cycling down the road.’

Confusingly, ‘upanddownoften mean exactly the same thing!

Sometimes, there’s a small difference.

Upcan meantowards youanddowncan meanaway from you

So, these two sentences… …*could* mean the same thing.

They could also be different.

The first sentencewithup’ – could mean that she’s walking towards you, and

the second sentencewithdown’ – could mean that she’s walking away from you.

The couple walked under the bridge.

She passed under the fallen tree.

Underis similar tobelow’, but not exactly the same.

Do you know the difference?

Belowmeans that you stay underneath something.

Under’ – as a preposition of movementmeans that you pass from one side of something

to another So, if youre talking about movement, ‘under

is more common.

You could saythe couple walked below the bridge.’

It’s grammatically correct, but it’s also strange.

Do you know why?

The couple walked below the bridgemeans they stayed in the area underneath the bridge,

so the bridge was over their heads the whole time when they were walking.

Overis the direct opposite ofunder’.

The plane flew right over our heads.

She vaulted over the bar.

The direct opposite ofbelowisabove’.

The difference betweenoverandaboveis the same as the difference betweenunder


Acrossmeans from one side of something to the other.

When the light turned green, they walked across the street.

We walked across a narrow wooden bridge.

When you useacross’, there normally isn’t anything above you.

Use it for open spaces.

For closed spaces, do you know which preposition to use?

He walked through the door.

We drove through the tunnel.

The boat travelled through the swamp.

Sometimes, boththroughandacrossare possible; you can sayThe boat travelled

through the swampor ‘…across the swamp.’

The meaning is similar, but there could be a small difference.

Do you know?

Throughmeans that you enter and then exit something.

If you drive *through* a tunnel, you first drive into the tunnel, and then you drive

out of it.

If the boat travels *through* the swamp, it moves into the swamp, then later moves out

of it.

Acrossmeans that you start on one side, and finish on the opposite side.

If you saythe boat travelled across the swamp’, you mean that it entered the swamp

on one side, and exited on the other side.

You can use bothacrossandthroughwith large, open spaces, especially natural

spaces: fields, parks, gardens, cities, and so on.

When you can use both, ‘acrosshas a more specific meaning thanthrough’.

Both mean that you entered a space and then exited it, butacrossalso tells you

*where* you exited.

Towardsmeans that you approach something; you get closer to something.

He walked towards the plane.

She’s walking towards the sea.

Theyre walking towards the lighthouse.

The opposite oftowardsisaway from’.

Here’s a question: what’s the difference between these two?

Both mean that they *approached* the lighthouse, but theyre slightly different.

Towardstells you a direction.

Up totells you a final result.

If they walked *towards* the lighthouse, they got closer to it.

You don’t know where they started or finished, but you know that they got closer to the lighthouse.

If they walked *up to* the lighthouse, then they reached the lighthouse; they ended up

next to the lighthouse.

In this case, you don’t know where they started, but do you know where they finished.

Intohas two common meanings as a preposition of movement.

First, it can mean to enter.

He dived into the water.

She came into the office.

Intocan also mean to collide with something.

The cars crashed into each other.

The opposite ofinto’ – meaningenter’– isout of’.

She took the instruments out of the cupboard.

He got out of his car to fill it up with petrol.

I was walking past the café when I saw my friend sitting inside.

The two women walked past the parking garage.

If you walk past somethingfor example a houseyou start with the house in front

of you, you walk *past* the house, and then the house is behind you.

Upanddownhave two common meanings as prepositions of movement.

First, you have the basic meaning: to a higher or lower


She’s walking up the hill.

When we let go of the lanterns, they flew up into the sky.

He walked down the stairs while talking on the phone.

The roller coaster accelerated down a steep drop.

You saw earlier thatupordowncan also have the same meaning asalong’.

That’s all for this lesson.

Thanks for watching!

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