Prepositions in Legal Context

Prepositions in Legal Context


Using prepositions accurately is one of the main challenges both in writing in English and in translating into English.

In Indonesian, there is a preposition “di” which is used to indicate a location or place, for example: “di restoran”. The translation of this phrase into English can be “at a restaurant” or “in a restaurant”. It can be confusing because in some situations “at a restaurant” and “in a restaurant “are interchangeable and in other situations they aren’t. If we are waiting for someone outside a restaurant, we are “at the restaurant”, not in the restaurant; but if we are inside a restaurant, we can be either in or at the restaurant.

In legal context, the use of prepositions can be very critical. Haigh (2009:8) mentioned that it is important to note that in certain circumstances it may be possible to use more than one preposition, and that there may be small but important differences in meaning between them. For example, the sentence:

The goods must be delivered within 7 days.

is subtly different from

The goods must be delivered in 7 days.

The use of the word within makes it clear that the goods may be delivered at any time up to the seventh day, while the word in implies that the goods should be delivered on the seventh day. This minor linguistic difference could be critically important in a contract for the sale of goods.

Non-native speakers may find it difficult to remember which preposition to use. There are no clear rules to follow in this respect, but some examples of common usages are set out below quoted from Legal English (Second Edition) by Rupert Haigh (2009:7-8):

  • The parties to this agreement . . .
  • The goods must be delivered to the purchaser.
  • The commencement/termination of this agreement . . .
  • The price list set out in Schedule 1 . . .
  • Royalties will be paid in accordance with this agreement for a period of five years.
  • The goods must be delivered within 14 days.
  • The Company agrees to provide training for service personnel.
  • The agreement may be terminated by notice.
  • An arrangement between the Seller and the Buyer . . .
  • It is agreed that the goods will be collected from the Seller’s warehouse at 21 Redwoods Road.
  • It is agreed that the goods will be collected from the Seller’s warehouse in/on Redwoods Road.
  • Interest will be charged on any unpaid instalments after the expiration of a period of 28 days from the date hereof.
  • He was charged with murder.
  • The property at 2 Pond Road is sold with vacant possession.


The solutions to this are to consult English dictionary whenever finding problems in using prepositions, read a lot in English and keep learning. See you on the next article! 😀



Haigh, Rupert. 2009. Legal English (Second Edition). New York: Routledge-Cavendish


Article by Luh Windiari

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