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Prepositions of Place in at on

Preposition of Place

In / At / On

Prepositions are words which are used to show the relation to a noun or noun [phrase to the other word it is connecting. In, at and on can help you describe the place something is situated.

In

Most commonly used when entering a physical location such as a room or a building. That is something which is within something that would be considered 3 dimensional.

  • I am in my room
  • I am in the lobby
  • I am in the opera house

Used when talking about being inside some types of transport

  • I am in a car
  • I am in a (small) plane

We use “in” when we traditionally associate the location as an enclosed space, as in

  • I am in class

even though the class is being conducted outside

The location does not need to be enclosed, such as

  • I am in the chair
  • I am in school
  • I am in the tunnel
  • I am in the park

The location needs to be specific

  • I am in the park (as opposed to being the vicinity of the park)
  • I am in London (as opposed to outside London)
  • I am in Australia (as opposed to Thailand)

At

We use “At” when talking about a specific point or location.

  • I am standing at the entrance
  • I am at the information desk
  • I am at my desk

We use “At”  when the location is considered general, or if you have just arrived there

  • I am at the airport
  • I am at the supermarket
  • I am at the mall
  • I am at the park
  • I am at the library
  • I am at my office ( having just arrived, talking to someone on the phone)

Using the preposition In or at, can relate to the sentiment of the speaker rather than the physical location.  Therefore, sometimes In and At are interchangeable, depending on how you perceive the location

  • I am at the supermarket vs I am in the supermarket

A supermarket can have both an enclosed space as well as an outdoor parking area. So if you were talking about something as general you would use at, if you wanted to be more specific, you would use in.

  • I am at the park vs I am in the park
  • I am at the airport vs I am in the airport

On

On can be used to say you something is supported by, and touching something. It would be located on top of a surface

  • I am on the desk
  • I am on a chair
  • I am on the floor
  • I am on the

We would use “on” when we are referring to a non-physical location; when time is being utilised

  • I am on my phone
  • I am on my computer
  • I am on the plane (in this case we are talking about the time factor, rather than the location)
  • I am on Television
  • I am on youtube

We would use on when we move from outside the vehicle and walk to our seat

  • I am on the bus
  • I am on the plane
  • I am on the ship

 However, if I wish to be specific, I would say

  • I am in the bus (if the person I am talking to is outside the bus. Or if the person is looking for you.

On can also be used to show the place is next to or alongside a natural feature, such as a river

  • London is on the Thames
  • Chicago is on Lake Michigan
  • In and On Transport

In and On Transport

We usually say “in” for vehicles that we move from an outside position to a seating position

  • I am in the car
  • I am in the (small) plane
  • I am in the (small) boat

Of course, in all these cases there are exceptions to the rules

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