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I have realised that no matter which nationality I am teaching “prepositions of place” can always be quite tricky for learners, but is there any wonder when Americans often use prepositions of place in the incorrect manner? It would confuse me too. So, in this blog, I am going to teach the correct way of using in, on, and at.

Leaving ON a jet plane

When we talk about transport, most of them use “on,” try to remember that. If you think about it, most of the transport we can stand on or sit on:

On a bus
On a train
On a boat
On a horse (it would be impossible to get in a horse unless it was dead and that would be messy!)

The only exception, really, is:

In a car/taxi

Why? Because we don’t stand up. We get into it, we bend our back to get into a car, and then sit down.

There are a few more with “in” but not many. “In a yellow submarine” and “in a hot air balloon,” but don’t worry we are very unlikely to travel that way.

Standing AT the bus stop

Places that don’t explain a room or specific area we would use “at.” It would be strange to say “I am in/on the bus stop.” We also use “at” when we talk about big places that don’t exactly clarify whereabouts you are.

For instance:

At the stadium
At the train station
At school/work
At home

I’m IN the bathroom

We use “in” when we are clearer about where we are, for example when we talk about rooms: In the bedroom, kitchen, garage…

So, you could be at work but in your office. At home but in the kitchen. At school but in the canteen.

Our house IN the middle of our street

In the middle of a book
In the middle of the queue

Is it AT the back or IN the back?

It’s at the back and it’s at the front. The answers are at the back of the book. We never use “in the front of the book” or “in the back of the book.”

I will try and make this as clear for you as possible, this is the part where students get lost.

I hear some people say “sitting in the back row of the movies,” if I have to be very precise with this, it’s exactly like I mentioned earlier. “in” represents an exact location. You can also say “I’m sat at the back” — this doesn’t mention exactly where you are. You can also say “I am sat right at the back” — this indicates that you are further at the back, maybe the last row at the back.

I hope this has made sense. Please watch my video if you still need more help.

Prepositions of place IN, ON and AT
EnglishWhich is correct