Skills

Levels

Prepositions: In, On, and At

Prepositions: In, On, and At (with specific times and places)

The prepositions in, on, and at can be used to indicate time and place. Notice how they are used in the following situations:

Preposition
Time
Place

In


Year, Month, In 1999, In December


Country, State, City In Japan, In Utah, InTaipei

On


Day, Date On Saturday, On May 1


Street On Main Street, On 1st Ave.

At


Time At 8:00, At 7:30


Address At 815 East Main Street

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.

Examples:

    A: Where's your office?

    B: In Taipei, Taiwan.

    A: Really? What part of Taipei?

    B: It's on Chung Shan North Road.

    A: I know that area. Where exactly is it?

    B: It's at 105 Chung Shan North Road, next to the bookstore.

    C: When is the wedding?

    D: It's in June.

    C: What day?

    D: It's on Saturday, the 25th.

    C: What time?

    D: 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

Sample sentences:

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:

"practice"/situation


building

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)

Where's Dad?

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)

For Practice: See

At-On-In Used in Time and Dates (from The Internet TESL Journal)

Prepositions : At, In and On (from The Internet TESL Journal)

See also:

Grammar : Prepositions and Time Words, Prepositions of Location

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Last updated: 15 February, 2010 02:43:16