At, in, on – prepositions of place
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At a point
We use at to refer to a point near something.
- Can you see that car at the traffic light? (=The car is at a point near the traffic light)
- Who is that man at the door? (=The man is at a point near the door)
At the top of/at the bottom of/at the end of
We use at in the expressions at the top of, at the bottom of and at the end of.
- She is at the top of the stairs.
- Please, sign at the bottom of the page.
- The new café is at the end of the street.
We use at to refer to group activities like parties, concerts, and other events.
- We were at the cinema.
- I didn’t see you at Jackie’s party.
- We met at a concert.
At + school/university/college
We normally use at with school, university and college.
- He is at school every morning until 12.
- I’m studying at Oxford University.
Be at home/work
We say be at home/at work (without the)
- She’s at home. (NOT
at the home)
- I’ll be at work all morning. (NOT
at the work)
At the shop
We use at to refer to shops, restaurants, cafés, etc.
- I’m at the bakery.
- If you are at the chemist’s, can you buy some aspirins?
In a 3D space
We use in to refer to a position inside of a three-dimensional space.
- The book is in the bag.
- She is waiting in the classroom.
In a space with limits
We also use in for areas that have limits or boundaries, like continents, countries, cities, regions, etc.
- We are in France.
- I love the houses in the Alps.
In a car
We use in for cars and vans.
- They are in the car.
In the water
We also use in when something is in the water: in the sea, in the river, in the swimming pool, etc.
- The kids have fun in the swimming pool.
In a picture, in a book
We also use in for things that are printed in books, pictures, documents, etc.
- Who’s that woman in the picture?
- Does it say anything about the concert in the newspaper?
On a surface
We use on to refer to a position on a surface.
- The book is on the table.
On the first/second/etc. floor
We use on to refer to floors in a building.
- The office is on the third floor.
On the right/left
We use on in the expressions on the right and on the left.
- The office is on the third floor on the left.
On the bus/train/plane
We use on when we are using public transport: on the bus, on a train, on a plane, etc.
- She’s on the bus right now.
On TV/the radio/the Internet/a website
We use on when we read, see or learn something in the media.
- I saw it on TV last night.
- I learned it on the internet.