I was wondering whether there are words for the two types of prepositions, or a word for the distinction between them. I understand that the difference between them is that one is a "static" preposition, while the other describes motion towards the position. I've noticed there are also other such pairs, like "on" and "onto". Also, such distinctions don't exist in all languages, though it is not exclusive to English either.

  • There is plenty if you Google preposition of movement. That’s not exactly a word for the distinction though. Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 19:30
  • 2
    In German and Slavic languages it’s one preposition but distinguished by case, they’re called Wechselpräpositionen. Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 19:33
  • Some useful articles on the semantic analysis of prepositions here - semanticscholar.org/paper/… semanticscholar.org/paper/… In Swedish there’s här and hit, locational pronouns for “here” vs. “here-towards” - “Do you enjoy living here?” vs. “How did you get to here?” The question could be approached by beginning from a broad semantic analysis of prepositions. Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 6:17
  • "into" doesn't always imply motion. See "The wire extends into the box." Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 17:28
  • I would still consider that "motion", as you are describing something that was outside but now inside (in this case. it's just that it's also still outside). Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 8:01

2 Answers 2


I'm not aware of any standard terminology for this. If you called them directional versus positional prepositions, I imagine you would be easily understood. (Similarly for prepositions of movement versus prepositions of location.)

  • I'd add "locative" before "prepositions", just to make sure "directional" and "positional" didn't generalize to other prepositions. AFAIK, that's the only way linguists use the terms, but we're not talking to linguists here. Someone may have just discovered the accusative/ablative group of Latin prepositions, for example. Including in.
    – jlawler
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 19:29

The difference is expressed by grammatical cases in some languages (e.g., Finnish), and Lists of Grammatical Cases distinguish Location, Motion-to, and Motion-from. The most generic terms I can take from there are locative (Location), allative (Motion-to), and ablative (Motion-from).

  • So could I potentially use the terms for prepositions? For example, could I say, a locative preposition? Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 10:13
  • Yes, at least you will be understood when you use that. Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 10:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.