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:
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.
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|
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:
|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)|
|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)|