• Close to, Next to and Near – What’s the difference?

    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.

    Close to vs 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 brown buildings in the photo above are next 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 the “close to” sentence above, but without the preposition “to” needed.

    Questions or comments? Let us know.

    Want to continue learning? Check out our guides to English idioms and English phrasal verbs.

    • Inquirer

      Thank you for this lesson! Very useful 🙂

    • newuser

      thanks a lot!!!

    • Gregory

      “This means you live by your work” : “by” is another way to talk about something close, right ? You should add it to this lesson… just saying 🙂

      • LOIEnglish

        Gregory…yes. ‘by’ can be used in a similar manner. In my opinion it is more related to ‘next to’
        The grocery store is by the post office. It seems to mean the same side of the street. In normal spoken English we could change the meaning by adding ‘near’ or ‘close’. Both of these sound more natural to me.
        The grocery store is nearby the post office. OR. The grocery store is close by the post office.
        Thanks, for adding this to the lesson!

    • BL

      I am confused with ur examples: I live close to my work and I live next to my work. Can you explain it again in a clearer way.

    • Fagner Oliveira

      Good! Thank you!

    • Hussain Alzaki

      “Near to” is more common in British English while “near” without “to” is more common in American English. So, for international English users the “to” is optional.

      • Nisrine Douma

        Actually, the first time ever I have heard near ‘to’ which I believe is incorrect is with Indians from India. They use near to quite normally even though I believe it is incorrect. We can say close but not near to.
        Thank you.

        • Kate Smith

          I’m a native speaker and use/hear “near to” all the time. It’s definitely acceptable in some dialects.

    • Rómulo Branco

      The article is quite incomplete, as it only refers to space, while “close to” and “near” can be used in other contexts. Also, “near to” can be used in some situations.