Spatial language descriptions, such as The bottle is over the glass, direct the attention of the hearer to particular aspects of the visual world. This paper asks how they do so, and what brain mechanisms underlie this process. In two experiments employing behavioural and eye tracking methodologies we examined the effects of spatial language on people’s judgements and parsing of a visual scene. The results underscore previous claims regarding the importance of object function in spatial language, but also show how spatial language differentially directs attention during examination of a visual scene. We discuss implications for existing models of spatial language, with associated brain mechanisms.