Prepositions of place : at-in-on
We use at to talk about a place as a point.
We use in to talk about a place as an area.
We use on to talk about a place as a surface.
1. We use at when we are thinking of a place as a point
She waited at the bus stop for over twenty minutes.
Where were you last night? - At Mick's house.
2. We also use at with words such as back, bottom,
end, front, and top to talk about the different parts of a place.
Mrs Castle was waiting at the bottom of the stairs.
They escaped by a window at the back of the house.
I saw a taxi at the end of the street.
We use at with public places and institutions. Note that we also say at
home and at work.
I have to be at the station by ten o'clock.
We landed at a small airport.
A friend of mine is at Training College.
She wanted to stay at home.
We say at the corner or on the corner when we are talking about
The car was parked at the corner of the street.
There's a telephone box on the corner.
We say in the corner when we are talking about a room.
She put the chair in the corner of the room.
3. We use in when we are talking about a place as an
area. We use in with:
- a country or geographical region
When I was in Spain, it was terribly cold.
A thousand homes in the east of Scotland suffered power
- a city, town, or village
I've been teaching at a college in London.
- a building when you are talking about people or things inside it
They were sitting having dinner in the
We also use in with containers of any kind when talking about things
She kept the cards in a little box.
4. Compare the use of at and in in these examples.
I had a hard day at the office. (at emphasizes the office
as a public place or institution)
I left my coat behind in the office. (in emphasizes the
office as a building)
There's a good film at the cinema. (at emphasizes the
cinema as a public place)
It was very cold in the cinema. (in emphasizes the cinema
as a building.)
5. When talking about addresses, we use at when you give
the house number, and in when we just give the name of the street.
They used to live at 5, Weston Road.
She got a job in Oxford Street.
Note that American English uses on: He lived on Penn Street.
We use at when we are talking about someone's house.
I'll see you at Fred's house.
6. We use on when we are talking about a place as a
surface. We can also use on top of.
I sat down on the sofa.
She put her keys on top of the television.
We also use on when we are thinking of a place as a point on a line, such
as a road, a railway line, a river, or a coastline.
Scrabster is on the north coast.
Oxford is on the A34 between Birmingham and London.