Difference between prepositions in and at.

This is a discussion thread · 3 replies
Another difference between question, I know, but my insecurities with prepositions really make my speech and sentence formulation very slow, talk about fill the gap type listening tasks. When it comes to the listening tasks then I usually get the answers right only because I can listen them two times, the first time I usually worry if I get the answers grammatically correct.

Anyway, I often don't know whether I should use in or at.

Lately I had a language structure exercise with four choices and I made the same mistake twice.

Sentences:

''.... winter we sail, have picnics and go looking .... the sea eagles, just as we do in summer,'' ..... Tim.

The second gap was easy, it's for. The third gap was confusing because two options I wasn't sure which to choose were tells and says. In the end, it was says, but for me it's really 50/50. The first gap was the most difficult, since I often put at in such sentences, and the correct one was in...

Basically, w h y can't at be used there? What's the difference between At winter we sail and In winter we sail? I honestly have no idea since people use at and in in extremely similar sentences.

''I'm in school'', ''I'm at school'' is another great example. Only difference I can bring out is that when I say ''I'm in school'' then it could mean that I go to school five days a week but I might not be at the moment. But when I say ''I'm at school'' then I'm definitely in school at the moment... Hopefully I'm not wrong, but if I'm right, how can the same rule work in the sentence with sailing?

Another in/ at mistake I made was in sentence: ''We have always enjoyed renting a sporting property .... Scotland for holidays,'' says Camilla, ''and for several years we had been looking at the idea of buying one.''

Again, I chose at for this sentence, which is obviously wrong. But I'm sure that if I'm not going to figure out the difference, I'll make that mistake again in the future.

So yeah, I'd be very grateful if somebody would explain me how the meaning of a sentence changes when using either in or at?
New Member04
Hello, AbitGeeky. It's nice to have you here at English Forums. Thanks for joining.

First, please don't 'ramble' in your posts. It is very difficult to discover what your question(s) actually is if we have to read through a lot of miscellaneous chatting. Just get to the point. Not being able to do that is one indication of why you have trouble with grammar points: you must stay focussed.

''.. winter we sail, have picnics and go looking .. the sea eagles, just as we do in summer,'' .. Tim.

The third gap was confusing because two options I wasn't sure which to choose were tells and says. In the end, it was says, but for me it's really 50/50.-- It should not be '50-50'. 'Tells' requires an object, but 'says' does not.

The first gap was the most difficult, since I often put at in such sentences, and the correct one was in... Basically, w h y can't at be used there?- 'Winter' is a season which has duration, and the events occur 'within' that time, not throughout it.

What's the difference between At winter we sail and In winter we sail?-- 'At' is simply wrong.

''I'm in school'', ''I'm at school'' is another great example. Only difference I can bring out is that when I say ''I'm in school'' then it could mean that I go to school five days a week but I might not be at the moment. But when I say ''I'm at school'' then I'm definitely in school at the moment... Hopefully I'm not wrong, but if I'm right, how can the same rule work in the sentence with sailing?- You are wrong on all counts. 'In school' = a student. 'At school' = at that place, not anywhere else. However, they can often mean the same, so there is nothing to worry about, and they certainly don't mean all the detail you have suggested.

Another in/ at mistake I made was in sentence: ''We have always enjoyed renting a sporting property .... Scotland for holidays,'' says Camilla, ''and for several years we had been looking at the idea of buying one.'' Again, I chose at for this sentence, which is obviously wrong. -- Scotland is a 3-dimensional location. The property is inside Scotland.

So yeah, I'd be very grateful if somebody would explain me how the meaning of a sentence changes when using either in or at?-- 'In' refers to a 2- or 3-dimensional space. 'At' refers to a point location. It is as simple as that.
Veteran Member92,083
SystemAdministrator: A system administrator takes care of the inner workings of the entire system. These users have the ability to promote, ban and modify other users.Teachers: Users in this role are certified teachers. This may include DELTA, CELTA, TESOL, TEFL qualified professionals. Email a scan of your qualification to an admin, if you wish to be considered.
Thanks a lot Mister Micawber, also I'm sorry for writing too much.

Although you're probably right about focusing, I'm afraid my problems with prepositions are more related to the fact that my first language has none (but it has 14 noun cases).
ABitGeeky''.. winter we sail, have picnics and go looking .. the sea eagles, just as we do in summer,'' .. Tim.
There's no way around it. You have to learn the prepositions together with the words that surround them. Trying to concentrate on the literal meaning of each preposition is likely to make your confusion even worse because prepositions are sometimes used in surprising ways that go beyond their literal meanings. You have to remember whole groups of phrases that all use the same preposition, like these:

in winter, in summer, in spring, in autumn

in January, in February, in March, ...

in 1998, in 2005, in 2011, ...

a property in Scotland, in England, in France, in Russia, ...

a home in Paris, in London, in Rome, in Chicago, ...

to be at school, at church, at the bank, at the post office, at the intersection,

at the train station, at work, at the office

on Monday, on Tuesday, ...

on May 20, on June 14, on September 24, ...

on a street, on a road

__________________

Use tell when you mention the person spoken to. Otherwise use say. This will work 99% of the time.

Tom said that he was ready.

Tom told Mary that he was ready.

CJ
Veteran Member53,294
Moderator: A super-user who takes care of the forums. You have the ability to message a moderator privately should you wish. These users have a range of elevated privileges including the deletion, editing and movement of posts when needed.Proficient Speaker: Users in this role are known to maintain an excellent grasp of the English language. You can only be promoted to this role by the Englishforums team.
Live chat
Registered users can join here