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next to The hotel is next to the bank.

The hotel and bank stand side by side with the doors facing the same direction. In the case of the doors not facing the same direction, is the spatial relationship of "next to" still valid? Can "next to" be replaced by "beside"?

Opposite the zoo is opposite the police station.

Are the zoo and the police station located on the two different sides of the street and the doors face each other? If the doors do not face each other while the two buildings stand on the different sides of the street or the doors face each other but the buildings stand on one side of the street, is "opposite" still good to describe the two positions?

in front of, behind The zoo is behind (in front of) the post office.

Must the doors open to the same direction to form the spatial relationship of "in front of" or "behind"? Can "behind" be replaced by "in back of"? Thanks a lot
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Hi guys,

'In back of' is wrong gramatically and would never be used by a native speaker

Just a minor comment about this. Yes, it's substandard English. But I think it is used by plenty of native speakers. I'd say that it's partly a question of the speaker's educational level, and perhaps partly a regional variation as well.

Best wishes, Clive

Comments  
What if a building has doors on all of its sides? Would you say all its surroundings are in front of it, and nothing is next to it or beside it?

Suppose you have a road crossing, one road going south-to-north, and the other east-to-west. In the north-eastern and north-western quadrants stay buildings A and B respectively. If you go along the south-north road, you'll get in between the buildings, so it will be natural to say «A is opposite B». But if you go eastward along the east-west road, you'll have both A and B to the left of you, so you can say «B is next to A» in this case...

Thus, some additional information is needed to chose the preposition, informatuon about the speaker's attitute towards both objects.

Of course, often there is a commonplace about which side to cosider frontal and which rear...
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Ant is correct. Gramatically and in general conversational English the use these prepositions are dependant more on the speakers point of view (or imagined point of view) than entrances, roads, etc.

However, mostly you have it correct:

1. Yes. If the bank and hotel stand next to each other you would be correct and safely understood to say 'next to' or 'beside' regardless of the position of the doors. And yes, 'next to' and 'beside' can be switched safely.

2. Yes, and no... in the case of the zoo and police station being on different sides of the street with doors facing one another, Yes. The case of the doors facing one another on the same side of the street could be correct, although you would have to be standing between the buildings (or be describing a situation where you would be between them - for example if you gave directions how to get to the zoo door, you could then say the police station was opposite; but not until you have described how to get to the zoo entrance!). in the case of doors not facing but on either sides of the street - generally you would be safe to say opposite, as long as your point of view (or imagined point of view) is the street between the buildings.

3. in front of and behind are, more than the other words, VERY dependant on point of view. to say the Zoo is behind the post office you must be able to imagine a straight line from your point of view (or imagined point of view, or anticipated future point of view) to the Post office then the Zoo. This applies also if you were to say the Zoo is behind the Post office.

the point of view thing could be confusing, if the post office is in front of the bank from the position of the entrance to the post office. The bank could still be described as behind the post office (and the post office still described as in front of the bank) from 5 miles away on the same street if you were giving directions. This is because it is anticipated that the person asking for directions would reach the entrance to the post office first before looking behind it for the bank

'In back of' is wrong gramatically and would never be used by a native speaker - although i am sure it would be understood if you did use it by mistake :-) 'to the rear of' could be used if you like, although most people would simply say 'behind'. 'Towards the back of' is correct gramatically but has a slightly different meaning, it tends to mean inside the building. For example 'the help desk is towards the back of the post office' would indicate that you could find the help desk inside the post office building but far away from the entrance door.
Chariot
next to The hotel is next to the bank.

The hotel and bank stand side by side with the doors facing the same direction. In the case of the doors not facing the same direction, is the spatial relationship of "next to" still valid? Can "next to" be replaced by "beside"?

Opposite the zoo is opposite the police station.

Are the zoo and the police station located on the two different sides of the street and the doors face each other? If the doors do not face each other while the two buildings stand on the different sides of the street or the doors face each other but the buildings stand on one side of the street, is "opposite" still good to describe the two positions?

in front of, behind The zoo is behind (in front of) the post office.

Must the doors open to the same direction to form the spatial relationship of "in front of" or "behind"? Can "behind" be replaced by "in back of"? Thanks a lot

Chariot,

A couple of useful points...

The location of objects is extremely important when describing a precise geographical location. So how you use the phrases will affect the reader's perception.

A bank and a restaurant can be located next to each other within the same building, which are separated by a corridor but still have their entrance facing each other. Side-by-side, adjacent, diagonal, across, next to are adverbial / preposition phrases to describe the physical location of something.

When you say “ Mary lives directly across street from my house” ,you are making a “six to twelve o ‘clock” reference.

When you say “ she lives two house to the left across street from me”, you are roughly making a “ reference.

When we describe a physical location, we often use the clock’s dial to make a positional relationship. is always your position and the other clock reference is the object you try to describe.
 Clive's reply was promoted to an answer.
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