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The Spanish Preposition - de

written by: djthyberg • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 8/2/2012

In Spanish, there are a number of different prepositions that we use, and -de- is one of the most common. There are many different applications to be learned for this preposition.

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    Prepositions are a class of words that describe multiple kinds of relations between words and phrases. The word “preposition” comes from the Latin “præponere” (to put in front of). There a number of different prepositions. Each one has important nuances that must be studied in order to communicate effectively. Here, we will look in depth at a tiny little word that is used all the time in Spanish: The preposition "DE". The following is a list of usages with examples that apply to this preposition.

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    The preposition "de" is utilized in Spanish to communicate possession as well as membership. We express possession by means of possessive pronouns or by means of the name of the possessor preceded by the preposition "de".

    For example:

    "el libro de Martín" (the book of Martin, Martin's book).

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    By membership, we do not mean the relation between the possessor and the thing possessed, but rather the attributes or objects contained in a person or thing. Again, the preposition "de" is used to express the attributes or qualities of someone or something.

    For example:

    "la sinceridad de Miguel" (Miguel's sincerity);

    "el brillo del piso" (the shine of the floor).

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    Material and Character

    We can also use the preposition "de" to express the material of which something is made. A preposition is necessary when we do this in English, but we must use "de" when we talk about what something is made of Spanish.

    For example:

    "la puente de madera" (the bridge of wood, the wooden bridge);

    "el cuaderno de cuero" (the notebook of leather, the leather notebook).

    This usage has also extended to signify the matter or issue of something.

    For example:

    "el libro de geografía" (the book of geography, the geography book);

    "hablábamos de la política" (we were talking of politics, we were talking about politics).

    This same usage is also used to express the nature, condition, or character of a person. For example: "es un estudiante de talento" (he is a student of talent, he is a talented student).

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    Partial Quantity

    When we're referring to a part of some quantity, the preposition "de" communicates the partitive sense.

    For example:

    "algundos de ustedes" (some of you);

    "siete de las diez personas presentes" (seven of the ten people present).

    From here, we can see the comparative usage of "de", when we're talking about quantities.

    For example:

    "más de tres" (more than three);

    "menos de once" (less than eleven).