Quick English: Prepositions - In, At, On

Today’s post is written by Renata, our Portuguese language blog editor. Read Renata's post on carnival celebrations around the world, and her Fun facts about New Zealand

A preposition shows a relationship between other words in a sentence. Prepositions can be tricky for English learners as there is no specific rule to be followed. This article will show you how to use English prepositions in different situations.

This post will cover the English prepositions in, at and on.

Conversations about time in English require different prepositions.

Use ON...

•For dates and specific days:

I was born on the 14th of June in 1988.

USE AT...

•To reference a time
I will meet you at 12 p.m.

USE IN...

•For a month, year, waiting time, time of the day, seasons
The new semester will start in March.
Lunch is in 20 minutes.

In conversations about location and description, there are specific uses for each preposition. 

USE ON...

• To express when something is atop a surface

The paper is on my desk.
I'm on top of the world! 

• To mention streets and avenues
We are on 5th Avenue.
The restaurant is on Smith Street.  

• To indicate the state of something
Everything in this store is on sale.

• To indicate a part of the body
He kissed me on my cheek.

• To talk about a electronic device such as a phone or computer
He is on the phone right now.

USE IN...

• To express when something is inside somewhere
He is in the kitchen right now.

• To indicate color, shape or size
This jacket comes in four different sizes

• To indicate a general place
I am currently staying in a hotel.
Alice is in Hawaii for the week.  

• To express an opinion, interest or belief
I believe in God.  

• To speak about neighborhoods, countries
Genia lives in London.
Marcelo works in New York.  

USE AT...

• To indicate a specific place
I will meet you at the club house

• To give your email or physical address
Please email me at [email protected]
Send me a letter at 123 Main Street, Anytown, USA

• To indicate an activity
He laughed at my acting.

English prepositions can be tricky so to avoid confusion, note:

For cities, countries and neighborhoods, make use of IN.
For streets and avenues, make use of ON
For specific addresses, make use of AT.

Examples:
The shop is in Covent Garden (Neighborhood)
The shop is on Clapham Road (Street)
The shop is at 45 Clapham Road (Address)

In some situations on and at are used in the same situation but with different meanings:

They are on the beach (They are literally sitting or laying on the beach.)
They are at the beach (They are in a region of beaches.)

Has this guide helped you to better understand prepositions? Do you still have any questions about them? Let us know in the comments!

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