Check out this latest video by Abbe to show you a very useful English grammar hack. This one focuses on prepositions, which give most language learners difficulty no matter what language they’re learning. The three prepositions we will focus on today are prepositions of place: at, on and in.
At, On, In — Which Preposition of Location to Use? (Video)
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Which Preposition of Place Should I Use?
These prepositions are used before a location but their use varies depending on which type of place you are talking about. Today I’m going to give you an easy hack to help you remember which one to use in various situations. Let’s start with these examples: “I am in the cafe” “I am walking 10 on the beach” “I am eating at my place”. We can see that these three example sentences are quite similar and yet we use different prepositions depending on the place. Seems pretty confusing, doesn’t it?
Sometimes more than one preposition of place is grammatically correct but unfortunately the meaning changes depending on which one you use. So is there a trick to remembering which preposition to use in different contexts? Yes there is! I’m going to show you a trick that works in most cases.
At vs. On vs. In – A Closer Look
Let’s take these three prepositions one at a time:
- “I am in the cafe”. Here I am inside the building, a location that I can represent in three dimensions. Other examples could include: “in a car”, “in a room”, “in a house” or “in a factory”.
- “I am walking on the beach”. Here the place I am talking about is a flat surface, unlike the three-dimensional area in the previous example. Hence, I use the preposition “on”. You should also use this preposition of place if you are talking about a line, or moving from point A to point B. Other examples could include: “on a road”, “on a flight”, “on a path” or “on a map”.
- “Let’s meet at my place”. In this case “my place” (another way to say “my home”) can be thought of as like a point in space. Imagine making an X on a map and saying “let’s meet there”.
Each time I talk about a specific point in space, I use the preposition “at”. Other examples could include/ “at the shop”, “at the traffic light”, or “at the station”. Let’s sum this up: “in” is used with three-dimensional places; “on” is used with a flat area or a line, “at” is used with a point. You can use this rule of thumb in most situations, but you also need to keep context in mind.
For example, I can say “I’m on the bed” or “I am in the bed”: both expressions here are valid though they have slightly different meanings. The first example means that I am sitting or standing on top of the bed. The second example probably means I am under the covers. Here’s another example: “Have you arrived at the restaurant?” “Yes I am in the restaurant now”. The first sentence describes a point on a map, the second sentence describes a three-dimensional place, “inside the restaurant”.
If you aren’t sure about a situation, try to visualize what you are describing and decide whether it is a three-dimensional location, a line or a point. There are of course some exceptions but this hack will help you in most cases, especially when you’re just getting started. With time and practice, you will come up with the correct preposition of place every time and it will become natural for you.
That’s all for today’s video. If you liked what you learned, subscribe to our channel and don’t miss out on the rest of our series of English grammar hacks! You can also post any questions you might have in the comment section. We’re here to help! Happy learning and see you next time.
You can also listen to the podcast version of this article with MosaLingua Language Lab:
Listen to “#24 – How to Choose the Right Preposition: At, On or In” on Spreaker.