Prepositions: In, On, and At

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:

Preposition Time Place
In Year, Month,
In 1999, In December
Country, State, City
In Japan, In Utah, InTaipei
On Day, Date
On Saturday, On May 1
Street
On Main Street, On 1st Ave.
At Time
At 8:00, At 7:30
Address
At 815 East Main Street

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.

Examples:

A: Where’s your office?

B: In Taipei, Taiwan.

A: Really? What part of Taipei?

B: It’s on Chung Shan North Road.

A: I know that area. Where exactly is it?

B: It’s at 105 Chung Shan North Road, next to the bookstore.

C: When is the wedding?

D: It’s in June.

C: What day?

D: It’s on Saturday, the 25th.

C: What time?

D: It starts at 6:00.

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

Sample sentences:

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:

“practice”/situation building
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)

Where’s Dad?

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)

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