AT – ON – IN
When to use the prepositions at, on and in can sometimes be confusing.
Below are some examples to help you.
|AT – ON – IN|
|Examples of use :|
|AT||David is waiting at the bank.||At 9 o’clock||Anne is good at English.|
|I saw Mary at work, at home,
at the party, etc.
|At the age of 80.||Look at that car!|
|We landed at the airport.||At dawn.||The golfer aimed at the flag.|
|At a specific address:
(at10 Downing St.)
|At night||Laugh at a joke.|
|ON||The bank is on Oxford street.||On December 25th.||On television./ On the radio.|
|The offices are on 5th Avenue.||On the day we arranged.||On the phone.|
|The book is on the desk.||On Sunday.||On the computer.|
|Don’t walk on the grass.||On my birthday.||On holiday(s)/on sale/on fire|
|IN||He lives in New York.||In 2012.||She writes in English.|
|She works in advertising.||In a minute, a month, a year, the future, the past.||He is in good humour.|
|The children are in the garden.||In the morning, the afternoon, the evening.||They are in danger.|
|The desk is in the office.||In winter, spring, summer, autumn.||We are in good health.|
Harry and Sally met each other at a barbecue while they were on holidays. They live in the same town so they arranged to meet again at the cinema at 7 o’clock on the following Saturday. The cinema is on main street in the town centre. Later in the evening they had dinner in an Italian restaurant on the square.
|The prepositions in, on, and at can be used to indicate time and place. Notice how they are
used in the following situations:
In many languages, there is only one preposition for the above situations.
In English there are three. Just remember that in usually indicates the “largest” time or place,
and at usually indicates the “smallest” time or place.
• Q: Where’s your office?
• A: In Taipei, Taiwan.
• Q: Really? What part of Taipei?
• A: It’s on Chung Shan North Road.
• Q: I know that area. Where exactly is it?
• A: It’s at 105 Chung Shan North Road, next to the bookstore.
• Q: When is the wedding?
• A: It’s in June.
• Q: What day?
• A: It’s on Saturday, the 25th.
• Q: What time?
• A: It starts at 6:00.
Prepositions with articles and locations
When talking about locations, use at to indicate the general vicinity or area, and in to indicate inside the building, enclosed area, etc. For example:
|at the swimming pool (on site)||in the swimming pool (in the pool itself i.e. in the water)|
|at the post office/bank (general)||in the post office/bank (inside the building)|
|at the zoo (visitors, general area)||in the zoo (animals in their cages)|
|at school||in the classroom|
I met my wife at the theater. (while watching a movie)
I spilled my drink in the theater (on the floor of the building)
She works at the library on Wednesdays.
She found a rare coin in the library (building).
Dr. Jones works at the hospital every day.
John was in the hospital for a week with a broken leg.
For school, prison, and church, the is used to indicate the building. No article indicates the general situation.
Note the following:
|in school (studying, listening to teacher, etc.)||in the school (building)|
|in jail/prison (staying there as a criminal)||in the jail/prison (temporary)|
|in church (praying, listening to a sermon, etc.)||in the church (building)|
|in church (attending services)||in the church (fixing the windows)|
|at church||at the church|
|in prison (He committed a crime.)||at the prison (visiting his friend)|