At, on and in: place
At is used to talk about position at a point.
- It’s very hot at the centre of the earth.
- Turn right at the next corner.
Sometimes we use at with a larger place, if we just think of this as a point: a stage on a journey or a meeting place, for example.
- The plane stops for an hour at Frankfurt. (a point on a journey)
- She lives in Frankfurt. (somebody’s home)
- Let’s meet at the club. (a meeting point)
- It was warm and comfortable in the club. (a place to spend time)
We very often use at before the name of a building, when we are thinking not of the building itself but of the activity that happens there.
- There’s a good film at the cinema in Market Street.
- Eat at the Steak House ~ best food in town.
- Sorry [ didn’t phone last night – I was at the theatre.
At is particularly common with proper names used for buildings or
- I first met your father at/in Harrods.
- I first met your father in a shop.
- She works at Legal and General Insurance.
- She works in a big insurance company.
At is used to say where people study.
He’s at the London School of Economics.
We use at with the name of a city to talk about the city’s university. He’s a student at Oxford. He lives in Cambridge.
At is also used before the names of group activities.
- at a party
- at a lecture
- at a meeting
- at a concert
- at the match
On is used to talk about position on a line (for example a road or a river).
- His house is on the way from Aberdeen to Dundee.
- Stratford is on the river Avon.
But in is used for the position of things which form part of the line.
- There’s a misprint in line 6 on page 22.
- Who’s the good-looking boy in the sixth row?
On is used for position on a surface.
- Hurry up – supper’s on the table!
- That picture would look better on the other wall.
- There’s a big spider on the ceiling.
On can mean ‘attached to’.
- Why do you wear that ring on your first finger?
- There aren’t many apples on the tree this year.
On is also used for position by a lake or sea.
Bowness is on Lake Windermere.
In is used for position inside large areas, and in three-dimensional space
(when something is surrounded on all sides).
|I don’t think he’s in his office.
She grew up in Swaziland.
He lived in the desert for three years.
|Let’s go for a walk in the woods.
I last saw her in the car park.
We use on (and off) to talk about travel using public transport (buses, trains, planes and boats), as well as (motor)cycles and horses.
- There’s no room on the bus; let’s get off again.
- He’s arriving on the 3.15 train.
- We’re booked on flight 604.
- It took five days to cross the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth.
- I’ll go down to the shop on my bike.
But we use in and out (of) to talk about cars and small private planes and
boats. She came in a taxi. He fell into the river when he was getting out of his canoe.
We generally use at (not to) after arrive; in is used before very large places.
- He arrives at the airport at 15.30.
- What time do we arrive in New York
We generally use at to talk about addresses.
- Are you still at the same address? She lives at 73 Albert Street.
We use in (AmE on) if we just give the name of the street.
- She lives in Albert Street.
We use on for the number of the floor.
- She lives in a flat on the third floor.
At can be used with a possessive to mean ‘at somebody’s house or shop’.
- Where’s lane? ~ She’s round at Pat’s.
- You’re always at the hairdresser’s.
7 special expressions
Note these expressions:
in the sky
in a picture
in a tent
in a hat
in the rain
in bed / (the) hospital/prison
on a farm
working on the railway
The map is on page 32. (BUT I opened the book at page 32.)
at, on and in: time