One of my Spanish language students (from the United States) has a lot of trouble using “a” and “en”, so this post aims to explain the differences between these two prepositions. First of all, let me explain that the English equivalents for “a” are “to” and “at” and for “en” are “in”, “on”, “inside” and “at”.
Let’s see two examples:
- Mi hermano está EN el restaurante japonés (My brother is AT the Japonese restaurant).
- Mañana iré A la boda de mi mejor amigo (Tomorrow I’ll go TO my best friend’s wedding party).
Most of our students would say “Mi hermano está al restaurante japonés” due to the similarity between English preposition “at” and Spanish preposition “a”, but, of course, this sentence is wrong!
We’ll explain you an easy way to understand when you should either use “a” or “en”:
– We use the preposition “a” with verbs of movement like “to go” (ir), “to run” (correr) or “to travel” (viajar), among others.
– We use the preposition “en” with verbs not implying the idea of movement, that means, verbs indicating location like “to be” (estar) or “to live” (vivir).
Let’s see some examples:
- Mis padres irán A París el próximo verano (My parents are going TO Paris next summer).
- Sandra corrió AL (a +el) hospital para ver a su madre (Sandra ran TO the hospital to see her mother).
- ¿Cuándo llegarás A la oficina? (When will you arrive AT the office?)
- Mi marido viajó A Argentina el pasado sábado (My husband travelled TO Argentina last Saturday).
- Estoy EN casa de mi amigo Juan (I am AT Juan’s).
- Mis primos viven EN Barcelona (My cousins live IN Barcelona).
- El libro “El señor de los anillos” está EN la mesa (The book “The lord of the rings” is ON the table).
- Hay dos caballos viviendo EN el establo (There are two horses living INSIDE the barn).
As you can see, Spanish verbs of movement are followed by preposition “a” and verbs not impling movement are followed by preposition “en”.
If you have any doubt, feel free to contact us. We’ll be pleased to help you!