The difference between AT and IN

by Ravindar

I have one question. Sometimes when I speak I wonder how can I can know when to put the correct word of use "AT" " and or "IN".

I am in the class,
I am at the factory,
I am at the bank,
He is at home...etc

Thanks for your continious continuous posting Diana.

Hi Ravindar,

Thanks for asking! This is not a silly question. Many people find prepositions difficult. Regarding the difference between AT and IN, here is a general explanation.

You probably already know that both AT and IN are used to describe position, but there are some differences.

Here are some rules;


-AT describes position at a specific point.
It's very cold at the bottom of the ocean.

-AT is also used with a larger place (a store, bank, airport etc)
Let's meet at the bank

-AT is used before the names of group activities at a party, at a meeting, at a play, at a parade


-IN refers to position within large areas or in spaces that surround something on all sides
My keys are in my bag. He is not in his office. The car is in the garage

ON (I added this one too!)

-ON is used as "attached to" or wearing
Which finger do you wear your ring on?

-ON also refers to the surface of something
My computer is on my desk. The book is on the shelf

Would you like an answer without waiting?

You can answer all your grammar questions yourself and in the comfort of your own home?

How? It is simple. Get a copy of
Practical English Usage, by Michael Swan.

I can honestly say that this grammar reference guide is the best I have ever used and I use it daily answering all of your grammar questions; including this question.

Why wait for my answer? When the answer is just a page number away?

Get this book now and start solving your grammar questions!

Click on the image above to buy the book safely and quickly through

Have a wonderful day everyone!

- Diana :)

Visit the English Grammar section for more Grammar advice.

Visit the Helping You Learn English Home Page

Comments for The difference between AT and IN

Click here to add your own comments

Mar 10, 2014
In or At
by: Christine

Dear Diana,

When do you use In and On when referring to dates like:
"The meeting was held on/in February 25, 2014""The meeting will be on/in March 25, 2014".

Am quite confused.

Hi Christine,
No worries. Let me explain.

When we talk about a specific date we always use ON. If we talk about a month we say IN that month. If we talk about a day of the week we say ON. We also use IN for a year (IN 2014).


We have a meeting ON Thursday.
The presentation will be IN November.
I need to fly to Paris ON the 25th.
I started working here IN 2008.

Notice that in your question you mentioned both the date and the month. Even though you mention the month, you are speaking about the specific date so we use ON.

I will be having class on March 16th.

I hope that helps!

Dec 02, 2013
the correct usage of in and at in expressing an address or location
by: niña

I wanted to learn about the correct usage of in and at in expressing a certain address. I learned a lot in your page.

Feb 18, 2013
More questions on/about grammar
by: Vanessa


I have the same question with Dickson too. (Should I say same question as Dickson or with?)

And this is probably a bit off the title, but I seem unable to find anywhere better on this site than here to ask questions about English grammar (grammar or grammars?).

Could you also tell me the difference between in a team/group and on a team/group?

And since I have touched (on?) the preposition 'on', I am also a bit puzzled by a news report I read today which was titled '...stock market expected to open high on China'. Why a 'on' here?

Lastly, the most irrelevant of all here relating to the topic: what are the differences between out of and from?

Looking forward to your reply! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this!

Dec 12, 2012
Is "in the meeting" correct?
by: Dickson

Some people use "in the meeting". Does that mean they aren't correct because in the example you gave, you said it's a group activity, therefore "at" should be used. Thanks

Sep 16, 2012
by: Aman

Thanks all for the information.

Aug 14, 2012
In or at?
by: Anonymous

I´d like to know if these two examples are correct and what the difference is between them.

I stayed at the Hilton.
I stayed in a hotel.

Thanks a lot in advance!

Both of your sentences are correct. We say at the Hilton because it is referring to a specific company or place.

You could also say we stayed at the hotel all night. can use at with hotel as well.

So what is the difference?

When you use "in a hotel" you are specifically referring to the type of accommodations you had and being inside them (surrounded by the walls of a building).

It is focusing or drawing your attention to being within the hotel.

Whereas when you use at, it just refers to where you stayed that night.

It doesn't really draw your attention to being inside the building, it just tells the listener where your accommodations were.

I was waiting at the bus station (it could be inside, in front of the building etc)

I was waiting in the bus station (you are actually inside a building).

I hope that helps.

Aug 17, 2011
by: Anonymous

Could you please explain the difference between IN and ON with a couple of examples?

Aug 17, 2011
i hav 1 confusion
by: swati


I am still a bit confused about the usage of IN and at. As you described, we use IN for places like an office which has four walls and surroundings but banks also have surroundings and walls.

Could you please make it clearer?

Thank You,
Look forward to your reply

Feb 21, 2009
Still not sure...
by: Miguel

Hi all!

I'm still in doubt about not sure about the correct use of the prepositions "in" and "at".

What's the difference between the two examples above below:

... at the bank ...

... in his office ...

Hi Miguel, Let's see if I can help. It is normal to find these prepositions. I have explained your examples a little.

At the a "general" statement talking about the presence of someone or something.

* There were a lot of people at the bank today.
* I was at the bank for 3 hours this afternoon.
* I saw my teacher at the bank.

In his a specific area within a bigger area, that surrounds you on all sides. Your office has four walls.

* I was in the bathroom for 5 minutes.
* She was in the clothing department of the store for 5 hours
* The couple waited in the lobby of the hotel for their taxi.

If you are still confused Miguel, let me know and we can try some more examples. :)

Have a wonderful day!

Click here to add your own comments

Return to ask your grammar questions here..

Still looking?  Search the site for exactly what you need using the site search box below.

Happy exploring!

Discover these Amazing ESL Materials!

It's English Time! English Express! 5 Simple Steps to Better Writing! English Harmony 2.0! Pronunciation Power!
Effortless English! Best Accent Training! Ola Zur! English Grammar Revolution! English Success

Sign-up For The Learn English Newsletter

Your E-mail Address
Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Learn English Newsletter.

Every month I get the learning English newsletter and it helps me improve my English.  it is very cool! - Inara