In general, we use:
– at for a POINT
– in for an ENCLOSED SPACE
– on for a SURFACE
|At : Point||In : Enclosed Space||On : Surface|
|at the corner- He’ll be waiting for us at the corner.||in the backyard- We had a barbeque in the backyard.||on the wall- They should hand some pictures on the wall.|
|at the crosswalk- You should always stop and look both ways at the crosswalk.||in Canada- They were born in Canada.||on the menu- Are there any vegetarian option on the menu?|
|at the front door- I heard a knock at the front door.||in your pockets- Do you have any spare change in your pockets?||on a page- Could you please print your report on a separate page?|
|at the bottom of the page- Make sure to include page numbers at the bottom of the page.||in a school- My mom teaches English in a school in Montreal.||on the cover- It’s the book with the dog on the cover.|
Prepositions of location IN and AT
In some situations it is more difficult to decide between using in or at. For example: Do you work in a bank or at a bank?
When talking about location, at refers to the general vicinity or area, while in is used to indicate a location and include the area (inside).
Sarah works at the hospital as a nurse. (general)
John was in the hospital for a week after the car accident. (specific)
I’ll meet you at the post office. (general)
I found a wallet in the post office. (building)
I swim at the school pool. (general)
I swim in the school pool. (specific)
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:
(studying, listening to teacher, etc.)
|in the school (building)|
|in jail/prison (staying there as a criminal)||in the jail/prison (temporary)|
(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)|