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Correct use of preposition is one of the most difficult things to master in English. Even
native speakers occasionally have trouble with them. Use of prepositions is idiomatic—
that is, there are no rules that govern their use; you just have to memorize them. Here are
some general guidelines.

In, at, to, on

Use in with cities, countries, regions and continents

I live in Oaxaca..
Oaxaca is in Mexico.
Mexico is in North America.
Use at with institutions, businesses, buildings and so on
I buy my groceries at Gigante.
I studied at Benito Juarez University.
I am at home most evenings.
We arrived at Mexico City International Airport.
Use to when motion or travel is implied
We flew to Mexico City.
I went to school in New York
She walked to the store
Use on for planets, islands, streets
Mexico City is the largest city on earth.
(BUT, Mexico City is the largest city in the world.)
He spent his vacation on Cozumel.
I used to live on Long Island.
I live on Glenwood Avenue.
When the word “island” isn’t used, or when the island is also a city, state or country, use
I went to school in Manhattan.
We spent our vacation in the Bahamas.
We were in Hawaii last year.
There are lots of exceptions. For example
I had lunch in a restaurant.
I had lunch at the Paramo Grill. (a specific restaurant)
She had lunch at the bus station.
He had lunch on the plane.

Between, among

Use between when you’re talking about two people or things

I divided the profits between Bill and Ted.
Our car broke down between Tabay and Mucuchies.
We only had $500 between the two of us.
Use among when you’re talking about three or more people or things
When you’re at the Escuela de Idiomas, you’re among friends.
Pizza and fried chicken are among my favorite things to eat.
English is among the most difficult languages to learn.
Between and among can get tricky, but there is a certain logic to their use. For example,
if you’re driving from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido, and from there to Puerto Angel, you
can’t say, “I stopped to rest among Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel.” You
can’t be between three places at once. You can say, “I stopped to rest between Merida
and San Cristobal.”


Use by to indicate authorship or agency.

He’s reading Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry.
Her favorite painting is Starry Night by Van Gogh.
By is also used with dimensions.
The room is 15 feet long by 12 feet wide.
I need to buy some two-by-fours at the lumber yard.
When used with dimensions, by is often abbreviated x.
By also means next to, by means of and no later than.
We live by the beach.
They traveled from Mexico City to Oaxaca by car.
Be home by midnight.

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