Arabic Language Blog

Difference in prepositions between Arabic and English (Part 1) Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Arabic Language, Grammar

Bazaar in Cairo

Learning prepositions and using them in the correct way can be a bit tricky across languages. Today, we’re looking at several of prepositions in Arabic and English and learn about the subtle differences between them.

Some of the simple prepositions that exist in both languages (Arabic and English, in this case), such as ‘in’ can be simply considered equivalent and used in the same in both languages, but today we’ll see how is this not the case. Through looking at specific examples, we’ll explore this in details and learn how, for example, a single Arabic preposition can have multiple meanings, depending on the context, and can, therefore, be translated into different English prepositions, up to three different prepositions, in some cases. Interestingly, the same can be also true for some English prepositions.

The first preposition we’re looking at is:




The preposition من is generally translated as the English preposition ‘from’, for example:

1- I got my shirt from that shop

اشتريت قميصي من ذاك المحل

Ishtarait-u  amees-i  min thak  al-mahall


However it can also be used to refer to the person’s origin, for example:

2- I come from Libya

أنا من ليبيا

Ana min Leebya

In this example, min من  replaces the whole phrase of ‘come from’ used in English.

Another purpose for which من  is used as comparison, for instance:

3- I’m older than my sister.

أنا أكبر من أختي

Ana  akbar  min ukht-i

Finally, it can also be used as equivalent to the preposition ‘of’ in some context, as this one in the following example:

4- There is a big number of audience.

هناك عدد كبير من الحضور

Hunaka ‘adad-un  kabeer-un  min  al-hudoor


As we you can see, a simple proposition as ‘min’ can be translated into three different ones in English.

Sometimes, it’s the other way around and one English preposition can be translated into different Arabic prepositions. This means that a single preposition in English, which can have different uses and meanings in different context, can actually appear as totally two different prepositions in Arabic. Ti illustrate this, let’s look at the next example:



can have two equivalents in Arabic, which are:

1- مع


2- بِـ


The most obvious example of ‘with’ is that which refers to ‘being together’

1- I spend my day with my family.

قضيت يومي مع أسرتي

Qadayt-u  yawm-i  mʕa  usrat-i

However, it’s not always as simple as that. ‘with’ can also be sued to refer to the manner in which something occurs. In this case, the Arabic equivalent here is بِـ   bi, for example:

2- He spoke with confidence.

تكلم بِــثـقه

Takallam-a   bi-thiqa

See you in next week’s post where we look at more of those tricky prepositions!

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About the Author: Hanan Ben Nafa

Hi, this is Hanan :) I'm an Arabic linguist. I completed my PhD in Linguistics - 2018. My PhD thesis was entitled Code-switching as an evaluative strategy: identity construction among Arabic-English bilinguals. I'm also a qualified public service translator & interpreter.


  1. Marie:

    Do you have another example for number four with من? This is not something I would say in English, so I don’t understand how من is being used here, unless you mean “there are many from the audience.” Thanks! Prepositions are so different in every language but so important.

    • Hanan Ben Nafa:

      @Marie Hi Marie.

      I just meant that we use من instead of ‘of’ as usually used in English. Another example would be: ‘There are many of them here’ > هناك العديد منهم هنا

      I hope this helps.