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Prepositions

A preposition is a word that expresses a relationship between one noun or noun phrase and another word or element in the same sentence:

Trans la riveron kaj tra la arbaron, ĉe Avinon ni iras. Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.
Violoni dum Romo brulas To fiddle while Rome burns
Ne kun vulpo. Ne en skatolego. Nek kun muso aŭ en domego. Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not in a house. Not with a mouse.

In Esperanto, prepositions never end a sentence, as they often do in English:

Pro kio vi faris tion? What did you do that for?
Pri kio estas ĉi tiu filmo? What is this movie about?

There is also an “anything” preposition in Esperanto, je, which has no definite meaning of its own but is used when no other preposition seems appropriate:

je la nomo de paco in the name of peace
esti graveda je ĝemeloj to be pregnant with twins

When describing a change in location, if the preposition used doesn’t by itself indicate it, one adds -n to the object of the preposition:

la reklamisto kondukis sian aŭton en la homamaso the publicist drove her car (around) in the crowd
la reklamisto kondukis sian aŭton en la homamason the publicist drove her car into the crowd
Do, se vi volas, mi metos la pafilon sur la tablon So, if you want, I’ll put the gun on the table

Prepositions can be changed into other parts of speech by the addition of suffixes if the meaning allows:

kontraŭ against
kontraŭa contrary
kontraŭe on the contrary
kontraŭulo adversary
kontraŭaĵo the contrary, opposite

One can technically use any preposition before infinitive verbs, though tradionally this only true of anstataŭ, krom, por, and, in the present era, sen. When using other prepositions, infinitives are (or were) often turned into nouns, preceded by a conjunction, or rephrased altogether:

Li decidis televidi anstataŭ mortigi sin he decided to watch TV instead of kill himself
Li estas malsana pro tro labori
( troa laboro)
he’s sick from working too much
la ideo pri lavi la manojn post uzi la necesejon estis klare fremda al li
( lavi la manojn uzinte post kiam li uzis)
the idea of washing his hands after using the restroom was clearly foreign to him

The traditional workarounds for preventing infinitives from being the objects of prepositions don’t always make consistent sense — one says antaŭ ol -i but never post ol -i, for example — but because prepositions are also used as prefixes to verbs, such workarounds can be helpful to avoid ambiguity:

post dati ĉekon
(datinte ĉekon post kiam oni datis ĉekon)
after dating a check
postdati ĉekon to postdate a check