The Meaning and Use of the Preposition ‘Along’

Prepositions are small words that play a vital role in sentence structure and meaning. They help establish relationships between different elements in a sentence, such as nouns, pronouns and phrases, by indicating location, time, direction, possession and more. Prepositions can be challenging for non-native speakers of English due to their nuanced use. Because prepositions tend to vary across languages, it is difficult to give an exclusive translation from say Dutch to English, or Spanish to English, and one preposition frequently translates to two or three in the other language, and vice versa.

Mastering prepositions is essential for clear and accurate communication because the use of an inappropriate preposition in combination with a certain verb can distinctly alter the intended meaning of a sentence. Like vocabulary, prepositions are learned by imitation and internalisation by first language learners (the mother tongue) and for second language learners this process is slower and more tedious. Learning the various contexts in which prepositions are used is the mark of an advanced speaker of a language, but sometimes it can seem like tossing the ball on a roulette wheel when deciding which preposition to go for!

This website already includes a post on prepositions and the basics about prepositions can be read there. That post will give you an understanding of the three main types of prepositions: temporal prepositions, spatial prepositions and dependent prepositions. There are around 150 prepositions altogether in the English language, but the most commonly used and confused are ‘along’, ‘at’, ‘by’, ‘during’, ‘for’, ‘from’, ‘in’, ‘of’, ‘on’, ‘to’ and ‘with’.

a walk along the promenade

This post is going to focus on the preposition along. The word ‘along’ is a common preposition or adverb in the English language that is used to indicate movement in a particular direction or in association with something.

Indicating direction or movement

‘Along’ can be used to express movement or direction from one point to another:

  • She walked along the beach = She walked in the same direction as the beach, parallel to it
  • We walked along the promenade together

In company or accompanying

’Along’ can indicate that someone or something is accompanying or going together with someone or something else:

  • I brought my friend along to the party = The friend came with the speaker to the party
  • Is it okay if my friend comes along?

Over the length of something

‘Along’ can indicate movement or location over the length of something:

  • They made a bike path along the river = The bike path runs parallel to the river
  • There are flags all along the route of the race

In addition to, or together with

‘Along’ can be used to express the idea of including something or someone with others:

  • I brought some snacks along = The speaker brought snacks with them
  • Take along your raincoat and an umbrella

Progress or advancement

‘Along’ can indicate progress or advancement in a particular process or situation:

  • The project is coming along nicely = The project is progressing well or making good advancement
  • Her French is coming along really well this year

In a continuous line or sequence

‘Along’ can express the idea of being arranged or located in a continuous line or sequence:

  • The houses are situated along the street = The houses are positioned in a line or series on that street
  • The catseyes run all along the side of the motorway

Phrasal verbs and common collocations

A phrasal verb is a native English expression containing a verb and a preposition (and sometimes also an adverb or other parts of speech); it is a phrase that functions as a verb. The English language, along with a number of other Central European languages, but perhaps slightly more so, is notorious for having a large number of phrasal verbs. The following are some of the better known verbs that collocate with ‘along’, along with some phrasal verbs with their definitions provided.

  • Get along = enjoy the company/personality of another person
  • Tag along = accompany someone
  • Play along = pretend
  • Come along
  • Carry along
  • Move along
  • Pass along
  • Sing along
  • Read along
  • Walk along

The origins of the word

The etymological history of ‘along’ can be traced back to its roots in Old English, an early form of the English language spoken from around the fifth to the twelfth century. The word ‘andlang’ was a combination of ‘and’, which then meant ‘on’ or ‘in’, and ‘lang’, meaning ‘long’. ‘Andlang’ could be used to refer to the length of something, as well as to indicate the direction of movement in a linear or elongated manner.

During the Middle English period, from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, ‘andlang’ evolved and underwent changes in pronunciation and spelling, and gradually became ‘along’. All languages evolve and change over time, with users often dropping sounds or syllables for ease of speech, and changing the pronunciation of vowels especially, for the same reasons.

In the Early Modern English period, from around 1500 to 1800, the word gained its modern use as an adverb or preposition indicating movement or direction in association with something else. This use became more widely adopted as the English language continued to evolve and its written form has remained constant as the written English language itself was standardised with the production of the first dictionaries towards the end of the 18th century.


As demonstrated in the above examples, ‘along’ is not a temporal preposition, but is a type of spatial preposition in that it describes the location of someone or something, yet often in connection with direction or movement as is the task of many prepositions.

‘Along’ is also a dependent preposition; it frequently collocates with a verb to form a phrasal verb in a sense that is not necessarily literal, but works with its meaning. There are many occasions when, although the word ‘along’ is a correct choice in a sentence, other candidates would also be suitable words. This is frequently the case with prepositions and one of the reasons students become confused: because not only one preposition is suitable, but many are not!

In the following examples, it is evident that ‘along’ is just one of a few correct options for these sentences.

  • We walked along the river together
  • We walked beside the river together
  • We walked along the beach today
  • We walked on the beach today
  • Her Spanish is coming along brilliantly
  • Her Spanish is coming on brilliantly
  • Please pass on these details to the relevant personnel
  • Please pass along these details to the relevant personnel
  • I’d be grateful if you could move along now please
  • I’d be grateful if you could move on now please
  • I’d be grateful if you would move away now please
  • I get along famously with my mother-in-law
  • I get on famously with my mother-in-law

While there are a number of substitutes for uses of ‘along’, note that there are also a number of circumstances in which ‘along’ is the only suitable candidate for the sentence. That is when ‘along’ literally means a-long the length of a thing; in this case along it is used literally rather than as part of an expression:

  • There are lights all along the side of the side of the road
  • The houses are situated along the street
  • Read along with me

In these examples along is the only satisfactory word because it conveys the precise meaning of the length of the road or street, or along the lines of words in a text.

Exercises to practise

Have a go at the following exercises to see whether ‘along’ is the correct preposition in the given contexts.

Created on By Michelle

The Preposition 'Along'

1 / 15

There's no way ------ that argument!

2 / 15

I have been thinking -------- you a lot.

3 / 15

We walked ------ the riverbank, enjoying the scenery.

4 / 15

The teacher asked the students to read ------- with her.

5 / 15

Everyone at the concert was singing ----- to their favourite songs.

6 / 15

In this country, you should always drive ------ the left side of the road.

7 / 15

Please pass the message ------ to your team.

8 / 15

The police officer asked the crowd to move --------.

9 / 15

Don't forget to take ------ some notes.

10 / 15

The project is coming -------- nicely.

11 / 15

To reach the town hall, you need to go ------ that bridge

12 / 15

He knew it was a joke, so he played ------ with their prank.

13 / 15

I am thinking ------- having my hair done

14 / 15

Can I tag ------- with you to the concert?

15 / 15

I get -------- well with my colleagues.

Your score is

The average score is 76%


If you have any questions or comments, please do add them below.


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