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Grammar and Usage - Uses of Prepositions (in, on, at)

Prepositions "In," "On," and "At"

A preposition is a word that links a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to some other part of the sentence.

Prepositions can be tricky for learners of English and is one of the most confusing lessons in grammar. There is no definite rule or formula for choosing a preposition. Oftentimes, common examples of it, such as in, on and at are used inappropriately. To avoid misuse, consider the following pointers:

Here are a few common prepositions and examples.


Used for unspecific times during a day, month, season, year:
  • She always cooks breakfast in the morning.
  • The Earth is closer to the sun in summer and farther from the sun in winter.
  • The new academic calendar will start in August.
Used to indicate a location or name of a place:
  • I am currently in an airport.
  • My hometown is Legazpi, which is in Albay.
Used to indicate a shape, color, or size:
  • The remaining jackets are mostly in medium and large sizes.
  • The students stood in a circle and held a silent protest.
  • This pair of shoes comes in five different colors.
Used to express while doing something:
  • In preparing for the final report, we revised the tone three times.
  • A catch phrase needs to be impressive in marketing a product.
Used to indicate a belief, opinion, interest, or feeling:
  • I believe in the afterlife but not in reincarnation.
  • We are not interested in political affairs.

Used to express a surface of something:
  • I left a message on the table.
  • The geometry book is on my desk.
Used to specify days and dates:
  • The garbage truck comes on Thursdays.
  • I was born on the 14th day of September in 1994.
Used to indicate a device or machine, such as a phone or computer:
  • She is on the phone right now.
  • My brother has been on the computer since this morning.
  • My favorite anime show will be on TV tonight.
Used to indicate a part of the body:
  • A lizard fell on my head.
  • I kissed her on her cheek.
  • I wear a ring on my finger.
Used to indicate the state of something:
  • Everything in this store is on sale.
  • The building is on fire.

Used to point out specific time:
  • I will meet you at nine o'clock in the morning.
  • The bus will arrive here at 4:45 p.m.
Used to indicate a place:
  • There is a party at the club house.
  • Hundreds of people are at the park.
  • We watched a basketball game at the Philippine stadium.
Used to indicate a contact information:
  • Please email me at nosupport@infinithink.com.
  • If anything happens, call me at 1234-567-890.
Used to indicate an activity:
  • He laughed at my singing.
  • I am good at drawing a portrait.
Used to indicate an event (a group activity):
  • I met Mary Jane at a party.
  • Zayn Malik will not be at the concert in Manila.
Prepositions of Place. When to use in and at to indicate a place? As stated above, there is no definite rule for choosing a preposition, depending on the situation, both may be interchangeably used.

Stating your own location:
Example 1: "I fell asleep in the library today as I haven't been sleeping so well lately."
Example 2: "I fell asleep at the library today as I haven't been sleeping so well lately."

In the examples, both convey the same meaning, so they are equally acceptable.

Stating a person's location:
If the person asking a question is not in the location, then use "at".
If the person asking the question is in the location, then use "in".

Example 1: "Is Luke in the office now?", asked Miguel. (the speaker is in the office)
Example 2: "Is Luke at the office now?", asked Miguel. (the speaker is on the phone and not in the office)

Sample Practice Test! Have some practice.

Fill in the sentences with its appropriate preposition. (Hover the cursor on the dark box to reveal the answer.)

1. Men from different fields gathered __ a party last night.
Answer: at

2. __ the wall is a masterpiece crafted by a world renowned artist.
Answer: On

3. "I am __ the meeting room waiting for you.", said Luke to his secretary on the phone.
Answer: in

4. "Trigonometry class will be held __ Mondays.", announced the professor to his class.
Answer: on

5. The campers have to ride __ the bus, otherwise they will be left staying in the campsite until next morning.
Answer: on

6. Time flies! Next week, I will be __ Seoul for vacation.
Answer: in

7. __ the door stands a very pale old woman, asking for a water to drink.
Answer: At

8. My sister seems to be interested __ Psychology more than Literature.
Answer: in

9. You can always see him reading alone __ the library.
Answer: at

10. Look for the missing map __ the left of this apartment.
Answer: on

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