Prepositions are considered to be one of the most confusing and difficult to master parts of any language (at least for the languages that have them), and English is no exception.
Three prepositions that our students frequently have difficulty with are “close to,” “next to,” and “near.”
At first these prepositions would appear to have about the same meaning. All of them relate to proximity.
We’ll start with “close to” and “next to.”
The difference between these is very subtle. Recently a student told us that she was “next to” a grocery store when something happened, but she had also mentioned that she was in her car, driving away from the store. A native English speaker would would have used “close to” in this case. Why?
“Next to,” while it does mean that your are close to or near something, additionally means to be in a position immediately to the side of something. Look at the photo below.
“Close to” can have the same meaning as “next to,” so you could say that the buildings in the photo above are close to each other, but you cannot say that the cars in the foreground are next to them. They are close to the buildings, because they are not side by side.
As far as “near” and “close to,” these two words have the same meaning. The big difference is that you cannot use the preposition “to” with near. This is a common mistake made by English learners.
Below are some more examples to help illustrate the differences between these words.
I live next to my work. – By saying this, you mean that your office is to one side or the other of your house.
I live close to my work. – This means you live by your work. Maybe on one side or the other, maybe just a two minute walk around the corner.
I live near my work. – Same meaning as “close to” sentence above, but without the preposition “to” needed.
Questions or comments? Let us know.