#GrammarTrivia: “in” vs. “at” (prepositions of place)

The topic is inspired by a question from a fella earlier today.

@yuyun_fitri: can u help me,,what’s d’ diffrnce between IN school n’ AT school? *confusing ƪ‎​​()Ʃ.. Thanx☺

So… That was the question. What’s the difference between “in school” and “at school”? Anybody wants to help? :)

Hmm… In Indonesian ‘in’ and ‘at’ probably mean the same, which is “di”. However, in English they have different meanings.

In this case, do you know what ‘in’ and ‘at’ are called? :)

Answer: @FadhilAnthem: Preposition?

Correct! ‘in’ and ‘at’ are both prepositions. ‘Prepositions of place‘, to be exact. Read more here: Preposition of place.

In the previous post we discussed 10 prepositions of place. However, today we will only discuss 3 of them: in, at, on.

Before we proceed, take a close look at this picture. See how ‘in’, ‘at’, ‘on’ are used in the examples.

prepositions of place at in onOK, let’s get to the point. The differences between the 3 are..

  1. in = enclosed place
  2. at = point
  3. on = surface

Dengan kata lain…

  1. ‘in’ menunjuk pada ‘di dalam’
  2. ‘at’ menunjuk pada suatu titik (tidak  harus di dalam)
  3. ‘on’ = di atas (permukaan)

Confused? I’m gonna give you some illustrations…

Between ‘in‘ and ‘on’, quite easy to differentiate. Where are the dwarfs? In the box and on the drum.

in on

While ‘at’… Imagine that you’re looking at a map in front of you and you have to point at a place. That’s when you use ‘at’.

So “I’m in school.” means you’re IN (di dalam) it.

But “I’m at school.” can be anywhere near it (tidak harus di dalam).

A little note though: when it comes to streets and places, you can also use ‘in’, ‘at’, ‘on’ this way (examine examples)…

  1. The house is in Denpasar.
  2. The house is at Jl. Sudirman 1 Denpasar.
  3. The house is on Jl. Sudirman Denpasar.

See the differences?

Questions and Answers

Q. @syifa21: ooh berarti ‘at’ kayak lebih spesifik gt ya min? :D

A. Yes, in the case of ‘Jl. Sudirman 1 Denpasar’, the use of ‘at’ means we say the address specifically.

Q. @anggiamst: Yes. In biasanya buat kota, negara, atau daerah. On menyatakan alamat spesifik. At jg tp lebih spesifik lagi. am I right?._.

A. Yes, ‘on’ = only the street name, ‘at’ = the complete address. :)

Q. @Thitanicc: min apa “in home” sama “at home” itu beda?

A. The correct and natural one would be ‘at home’, not ‘in home’. ‘In the house’ is correct. Read more here: in home versus at home.

Q. @helloalmira: There’s a special case for chair though. I thought that the right one would be ‘I sit on a chair’. But my lecturer said that ‘I sit in a chair’ was the correct one, because we let our body follow the form of a chair

A. Interesting. According to discussion here: sit in a chair/sit on a chair, the type of chair involved is crucial in deciding which to use.

Q. @rinosukmandityo: how about please watch my performance on TV next day? why not use in or at?

A. Much like the ‘internet’ (to refer to the ‘data’), we use ‘on’ for television. Thus: on TV, on the internet.

Q. @MeLLDinnard: how about those propositions for the transportation. Like “get on the truck”, “get in the car”.

A. Generally, public transportation = ‘on’ (the bus), private = ‘in’ (the car). Read this: Prepositions in Transportation.

Q. @MeLLDinnard: but does cab consider as public transportation too? Just wondering.

A. As the article suggest: ‘ there are exceptions to every rule’. So I guess ‘cab’ (or taxi) is the exception here.. :)

Q. @MeLLDinnard: and i got confuse with what my teacher told me earlier that in or on are used based on the size of the ride. How’s that?

A. Perhaps you should read: Prepositions for Transportation. According to this one, it also depends on the size of transportation.

Compiled and written by @NenoNeno at @EnglishTips4U on 4 February, 2013

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