I have just talked about the prepositions of time and their correct usage.  I would like to continue the topic and talk about the prepositions of places since the usage of which confuses many people too.   

 

When should we use “at”, “in” or “on” when referencing place?


Prepositions of Place: At, In, On 

 

At:  (1) specific places/points in space such as at home, at school, at the doctor’s office, at 1801 Park Avenue, or at the fundraising party (indicating 1-dimensional space).

 

In(side):  (1) enclosed space such as in the car or in the container (indicating 3-dimensional space), or when the area has metaphorical instead of actual boundaries such as in the organization. 

 

On (top of): (1) line or surface such as on the table, or on the surface (indicating 2-dimensional space). 

 

For example:

(1) The contemporary family-type enterprises have influential status on their foundation and organization.  (X)

=> “in” their foundation and organization.

 

(2) Family business plays an important and influential role in their organization nowadays.  (O)

 (3)  She works in an organization that analyzes the global warming effect to earth.

(4)  Her role in Bank of America is really crucial.  She determines how much reinsurance that the company should carry.

(5) My house is on the lake.

(6)  There is a vase on the table.

 

It is sometimes tricky to determine when to use “at” or “in”.  You may come across one using “at”, but the other using “in”, yet another using “on” to describe the same noun.  How do you differentiate when to use “at” vs. “in” vs. “on”?  You can probably think of “in” as “inside”, “on” as “on the surface of”, and “at” as “at a spot in”.

 

For example:

(A) at the station (在車站) vs. in the station (在車站立體空間)

(1) The light-rail train arrives at the station on time.

ð  Here, we are trying to express a specific point, a public place, or a general location.

ð The light-rail train arrives at a spot in the station on time.

 

 (2) In winter, you will see homeless people taking shelter in the station. 

ð Here, we are trying to express the notion: “inside an enclosed space”.

ð In winter, you will see homeless people taking shelter inside the station.

I met her at the office.

I work in the office.

 

(B) on the ocean (面上) vs. in the ocean ()


(1) There are several boats sailing on the ocean.

ð Here, we are trying to express the notion: “on the surface”.

ð There are several boats sailing on the surface of the ocean.


(2) While I was snorkeling, I was able to see fish swimming in the ocean.

ð Here, we are trying to express the notion: “inside an enclosed space”.

ð While I was snorkeling, I was able to see fish swimming inside the ocean.

 

She hides the candies on the freezer.

She stores fish in the freezer.

 

* at University - British English.  

in University - American English

Usage

AT

Usage

IN

Usage

ON

Specific Places / Points in Space,


Public Places/ General Locations,

 

and Addresses.

 

at a cottage,

at my house,

at John’s (apartment),

at the grocer’s (store),

at the dentist,

at the doctor’s (office),

at Mall of America,

at campground,

at the bus stop,

at the traffic lights,  

at the crossroads,

at the door, 

at the window,

at the end of the street,

at the corner,

at the entrance,

at the front desk,

at the table,

at work,

at school,

at college,

at university,

at the back,

at the top,

at the bottom,

at the side,

at reception,

at the concert,

at the conference,

at the theater,

at 1801 Park Avenue,

at the fundraising party

at class

at the library

Enclosed Space , 

 

Areas with Boundaries,

 

and Countries/ States/ Cities,

 

or when the area has metaphorical instead of actual boundaries.

 

in Taipei,

in Park Avenue,

in the store,

in a building,

in a clinic,

in the lobby,

in the office,

in the dining room, 

in the elevator,

in the mountains,

in the Rockies,

in prison,

in the park,

in the theater,

in the garden,

in the sky,

in the air,

in the ocean,

in the galaxy,

in a box,

in the freezer,

in the drawer,

in my pocket,

in the suitcase,

in a dress,

in a car,

in a boat,

in the book,

in the picture,

in the drink,

in my neck

 in an organization

in Bank of America

in the bed

in class

in school

in the library

Line and Surface, or Immediate Proximity

 

on Park Avenue,

on the east coast,

on the river,

on the grass,

on the wall,

on the ceiling,

on the roof,

on the ground,

on the 2nd floor,

on the carpet,

on the door,

on the table,

on the cover,

on the menu,

on a page,

on a piece of paper,

on the seat,

on a bus,

on a horse,

on television,

on the left,

on the way,

on the corner,

on the other side,

on the far side,

on my foot,

on my face,

on my shirt

on the bed

 

** 版權所有 - Elisa

 

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