Prepositions of Movement

Prepositions are one of the hardest subjects for Turkish learners to grasp. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, Turkish doesn’t really have prepositions. The language has a couple of endings which show the relationship between two objects, but overall there is no extensive nor varied use of this as there is in English. edit: after reading some of the comments, I stand corrected that there are plenty of prepositions in Turkish. Thank you to the commenters for the information! I’ve learned something, and obviously my knowledge of the Turkish language needs to be expanded. Secondly, prepositions are largely governed by convention rather than rules. Turkish is a language full of rules and exceptions to those rules, but English is full of convention. Things are the way they are because everyone says that’s the way it should be.

Rules versus conventions

When I teach prepositions, I make sure my students know what convention is. My favorite illustration of this is to ask them if they know why a Turkish lira has its worth. I point out that there is no law that states the worth of a Turkish lira, and that technically it’s just a piece of paper or bit of metal that really has no value at all. The value of the Turkish lira is based on agreement for its worth is founded on everyone’s belief as such. I use this technique because it helps to manage student’s expectations as they embark on this confusing subject.

Prepositions can be broken down into several categories. Some are easier to teach than others. For example, prepositions of time are pretty straightforward and the conventions therein are solid. Things happen on a day, in a month or a certain year, and at a specified time. Usually A1-level students will learn these. Movement prepositions are a little more complicated but are appropriate for A2-level students. There are prepositions of spatial relationship which are also easy to demonstrate because they show the concrete relationship between two or more physical objects. However, when we get into prepositional phrases and phrasal verbs, it really gets complicated because one easily gets entangled in the thicket of convention here.

A useful tool

A useful tool in teaching prepositions of movement is a book called Essential Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy.

Essential Grammar in Use, Raymond Murphy ©2015 Cambridge

I encourage my students to purchase this book, as it is readily available in Turkey and probably other countries as well. While I cannot post the particular page concerning these propositions here, I can describe the approach the book takes, as it’s quite insightful.

pairs of opposites

Prepositions on movement can be taught as opposites. Here’s a list of them:

  • Into (in) / Out of
    • I went out of my house and got into my car.

Here, I teach the phrasal verbs put in and take out, for they commonly collocate with these prepositions. I tell my students the put out and take in are also valid, but the meanings are completely different and that they should only focus on the first two for now.

  • To / From
    • I walked from my house to the pharmacy.
  • On / Off
    • I got off the Marmaray and on the Metrobus.
  • Up / Down
    • I walked up the hill to Taksim and continued down the other side to Tarlabaşı.
  • Over / Under
    • I walked over the hill and went under a bridge.
  • Through / Round (Around)
    • I went round the corner and walked through a tunel.

Through also collocates with look, as in I looked through the window and saw a dog. Sometimes students will ask if they could look out of the window, and I explain the difference here – if you’re standing in the room and you see the dog, you’re looking through the window, but if you go to the window and open it and stick you head out the window, you’re looking out of the window.

Also, there’s a bit of confusion about walking through something or around something, as in I walked through town versus I walked around town. I explain that through demonstrates purpose while around is more concerned with sightseeing. Walking through something is like have horse blinders on, while walking around something is like taking photos of the various sites and sceneries. For example, I walked through Taksim to Sishane. I walked around Taksim and took photos.

  • Along / Across
    • I drove along the Bosphorus from Karikoy to Besiktas and across the bridge to Acibadem.
  • Past
    • I drove past Dolmabace Palace to Besiktas.

Past doesn’t have an opposite. I emphasize that when you go past something it starts when it is in front of you, then you walk along it and finally it is behind you.

Obviously having a whiteboard is quite handy in teaching this subject, and I think these prepositions are easier to teach in a face-to-face setting as the teacher can demonstrate the movements with their body. The book I had mentioned earlier is quite useful for an online setting because there are some handy illustrations for each of these prepositions.


After I teach these prepositions, I find that setting up a guided practice is useful. I find a decent map on Google images, such as this one:


You could also create a map worksheet similar to the illustration. I put students in pairs and ask one of them to pick a starting location and the other to pick a destination. The student who chose a destination doesn’t tell the other student where they picked, but they know the starting location. At this point the student who knows the destination gives directions to their partner and hopefully their partner will end up at the correct destination.

In a full-class setting, the teacher can think of a particular destination in the city and tell the students where they are stating. For instance, the students would start in Bebek and the teacher would give verbal directions on how to get to Maltepe. It would go something like this: get on the bus and go South along the Bosphorus. Get off the bus at Besiktas. Walk up Barbarosa Cadessi and get on another bus. Go up the hill and get off the bus at Zincerlikuyu. Walk down the stairs, etc.

A gap-fill worksheet could also be created with these instruction. The students would then listen to the spoken instructions and fill in the gaps with the correct prepositions as they hear them, and check each other in pairs. After that the answers could be given to the whole class.

These are a few ideas for exercises related to prepositions of movement. If you have any other ideas or know of any additional resources, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Thank you for reading.

3 thoughts on “Prepositions of Movement”

  1. Mahmood Mohammadi

    Hello! I read your works fondly. I am an Arab student learning both English and Turkish. But I think there is an information mistake here. There are prepositions in Turkish. Prepositions can be endowed with inflection, but there are prepositions. At this point, I asked a Turkish teacher doing a PhD on Turkish about prepositions and he said the same thing. Also I found a lot of academic paper about Turkish prepositions. Did you study with a Turkish teacher about this. Where did you get this information? Thanks.

    For example:
    The boy walked “towards” the school.
    Çocuk okula “doğru” yürüdü.

    The word “doğru” here does not mean “what is real”. This is a synonymous word and used as a preposition.

  2. What? Are there no prepositions in Turkish? You should really search for “Turkish Prepositions” on Google. Even that would be enough.

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