December Quick Tip
On, At, and Other Prepositions
Prepositions like on, in, by, at, etc. are one of the hardest things to learn in a new language, because they almost never translate directly. One of the most common mistakes in English for Czech speakers is using the word on too much. This happens because it is usually one of the first words you learn. When you’re talking about basic positions, the word on in English (for example, on the table) is translated as na in Czech (na stole). Since it’s one of the first words you learn, you memorize that translation and automatically use on in English when you would say na in Czech.
This becomes a problem later on, because most of the time Czech speakers use na, the English equivalent is not on, but at.
To help you decide which preposition to use, try this general rule of thumb: on is usually the same as on top of. If it doesn’t make sense to say on top of, you probably need to use at.
So these all
make perfect sense:
On the table = On top of the table
On the floor = On top of the floor
On the chair = On top of the chair
however, sound silly, and you need to use at:
On the cottage = On the roof of the cottage -> At the cottage
On the station = On the roof / top of the station -> At the station
On Pankrác = On top of Pankrác (the image for a native speaker is of someone or something so big that they cover the entire area) -> At Pankrác
things a little more complicated, we also use on for most media:
On the radio
On the internet
media is printed, in which case we use in:
In the newspaper
In the magazine
In a book
We use it
for most types of transportation, too:
On the bus
On the train
On a plane
On the metro
In the car
you are traveling, we never use on or at for a destination. In that case,
you need to use to:
I’m going to my cottage.
I’m going to the bank.
I’m going to Brno.
Prepositions are one of the hardest things to learn, but if you can get them right, they will make you sound very intelligent, educated, and fluent in English.