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Hi teachers,

I am confused with the choice in the following sentences from a grammar book.

1. She works in a shoe shop. ("at" is stated not correct)

2. She works at a pizza restuarant. ("in" is stated not correct)

3. My father works at / for a firm. ("in" is not correct. But we do say "work in a company." Is that correct? I saw it from one of the treads in this forum)

4. Jane works in sales department at/for/of Drake Inc.

Thank you for you help in advance.

Regards,

TN
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Comments  
She works in a shoe shop. -- fine

She works at a shoe shop. -- less common I guess, but I would not label this "not correct"

She works at a pizza restaurant. -- fine

She works in a pizza restaurant. -- OK to me. Does your book really say that this is "not correct"?

My father works at/for/in a firm/company. -- To me, "for" is the most natural and best choice. "at" seems possible, while "in" seems the least natural. But since most people who work at all work for a firm or company, it's hard to imagine why anyone would ever want to say this. In practice you would always be more specific: "My father works for a shipping company" or "My father works for a firm of accountants".

Jane works in the sales department at Drake Inc. -- seems most natural to me. "of Drake Inc." is also possible.
Dear Mr. Wordy,

Thank you for your help.

Sometimes I don't know if it's because the grammar book's too outdated or Grammar keeps evolving.

On prepositions: The church is in/on Park Road, while in another Grammar book, "on" is not accepted. If I'm not a native, I have no discern for what's right and what's wrong in a sentence.

Regarding my questions:

1. "Jane works in almost every department of Drake Inc." Would this sentence close to what you meant "of Drake Inc., is also possible."

2. The book says, "She works in a shoe shop" means the kind of place. But doesn't "pizza restaurant" exactly tell of "the kind of place", a pizza kinda of resturant?

3. Could you check the following sentences to see if the usage is correct?

3a. The thief was arrested 15 minutes after he robbed the store manager at / in a Lane Bryant store in /at Tinley Park. The thief worked weekends at / in the store.

3b. John's mother worked as a sales clerk at / in a department store in Schenectady, N.Y.

3c. She worked as a department manager in ladies apparel at / in a branch store.

3d. John worked as a buyer and manager in / at a department.

Thank you.

Tinanam
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tinanam0102On prepositions: The church is in/on Park Road, while in another Grammar book, "on" is not accepted. If I'm not a native, I have no discern for what's right and what's wrong in a sentence.

One thing you can do (as well as ask here, of course) is use Google. Remember to search for a quoted phrase. For example, Google gives the following hit counts:

about 2,360 for "is on park road".

about 759 for "is in park road".

There are some potential pitfalls though (apologies if these are self-evident). One is that there is a lot of bad English on the web (but even so, if you see, say, 30,000 hits for one phrasing and 50 for another then that gives you a lot of confidence that the first is right and the second is wrong). News Search and Book Search generally have a more reliable standard of English, but with fewer hits on less common phrases (which may give less statistically significant results) and sometimes less coverage of expressions or phrasing used in very casual conversational.

Another pitfall is that if you take fragments of sentences out of context then Google may be finding those words used in a different context or grammatical position. Also, Google stats sometimes seem suspect (for example, sometimes it reports large numbers of hits but when you page through the results the actual number is much smaller).

Finally, there may be regional or (especially with anything to do with place names) local conventions.

1. "Jane works in almost every department of Drake Inc." Would this sentence close to what you meant "of Drake Inc., is also possible." -- gammatically fine, but an odd thing to say. Do you mean she works in almost every department at the same time?

2. The book says, "She works in a shoe shop" means the kind of place. But doesn't "pizza restaurant" exactly tell of "the kind of place", a pizza kinda of resturant? -- I have no idea why the author takes exception to "in a pizza restaurant". I can't explain it.

3. Could you check the following sentences to see if the usage is correct?

3a. The thief was arrested 15 minutes after he robbed the store manager at / in a Lane Bryant store in /at Tinley Park. The thief worked weekends at / in the store. -- All permutations are possible in my usage. The choice of "in/at Tinley Park" may be subject to local conventions, depending on what sort of place "Tinley Park" is, so that one's hard to call.

3b. John's mother worked as a sales clerk at / in a department store in Schenectady, N.Y. -- both are OK to me.

3c. She worked as a department manager in ladies apparel at / in a branch store. -- both are OK to me. I would write "ladies' apparel".

3d. John worked as a buyer and manager in / at a department store. -- both are OK to me.
Dear Mr. Wordy,

Thank you for your help with prepositions. I just found out that "on" Park road was AME usage, and "in" Park road was English usage.

I still have a few at / in relationship I'd like you to help me with. Could you tell me if both at/in work in the contexts of the following sentences or one preferable over the other. The first preposition is from the original text on the news.

1. The anchor says: "An investigation is underway into yesterday's fire at/in a building in Monk Kok. Firemen have found that some of the doors were missing in/at the nightclub where the blaze started.

2. The reporter is at the scene talking to a man. The reporter says: This man told us that the fire safety equipment in/at the building was decades old and the fire doors at/in the nightclub were permanently opened.

3. The anchor is reporting and he says: A lift in/at a Monk Kok building caught fire today. The pulley of the elevator caught fire at/in residential building.

4. A lift at/in a housing estate in Monk Kok stopped working last night. [...] Thhe lift didn't work at/in Ming House in/at Fu Shan Estate. (a housing estate is of a government project, Fu Shan Estate is one of them; Ming House is the name of the building and one of the buildings of Fu Shan Estate.)

5. A fire broke out in/at this building.

6. (Mr. Wordy, I apologize for this example with inappropriate content) A body of a man was found found hung in/at a store room of a private housing estate.

7. I ran into Sarah today in a department store at the mall. (I made this up)

8. I ran into Sarah today in/at Toys R us in/at Halifax shopping centre.

Thank you so much for your help. I'm sorry that I have stretched it somewhat very long.Emotion: smile

Regards,

Tinanam
tinanam0102Thank you for your help with prepositions. I just found out that "on" Park road was AME usage, and "in" Park road was English usage.

I assume by "English usage" you mean British English usage. I don't know where you got this information from, but it's not really correct. In British English we do use "on" (as well as "in") when referring to roads, as you can see at:

http://news.google.co.uk/news?um=1&ned=uk&hl=en&q=%22on+*%22+-%22on+the+road%22+location%3Auk

(This returns results from UK publications only.)

Both "in" and "at" seem possible to me in most of your examples. The ones where I notice a significant preference for one word over the other are:

6. "in a store room"

7/8. "I ran into Sarah today in ...".

However, the choice in some sentences is influenced by the fact that we might want to avoid quick repetition of "in ... in" or "at ... at" on stylistic grounds. Take #8 as an example. Although "I ran into Sarah today in Halifax shopping centre" is OK, "I ran into Sarah today in Toys R Us in Halifax shopping centre" has a noticeable repetition of "in". For this reason, I prefer "I ran into Sarah today in Toys R Us at Halifax shopping centre". I'm assuming that "Halifax shopping centre" is a mall-like establishment.
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Dear Mr. Wordy,

Thank you for guiding me through. A tutorial teacher of my sister on English told my sister that. Up until Mr. Mister Micawber corrected one of my in/at sentences, I always thought what our understanding of prepositions learned from school had been alwalys correct. Until you see variations, you start to question.

Just a slight question to finish. Could I ask, with most of my questions about things that happened in/at a building like a fire broke out, or a lift plunged, if the first preposition comes into your mind would be "at" when you are away from the site and reporting in the studio?

Thank you.

Tinanam
tinanam0102Just a slight question to finish. Could I ask, with most of my questions about things that happened in/at a building like a fire broke out, or a lift plunged, if the first preposition comes into your mind would be "at" when you are away from the site and reporting in the studio?

Unfortunately there are many idiomatic considerations with "at" and "in" (and prepositions in general), and it's difficult to give simple general rules.

However, to try to answer your specific question, "at" tends to make a building sound like a geographical location, so, yes, in the scenario you describe "at" is often the most obvious choice. A couple of circumstances when you wouldn't use "at":

When talking about a part of a building. For example, you would always say "The fire started in an office on the first floor" (never "at an office on the first floor").

When it seems particularly significant or important that that the thing happened inside the building. For example: "The burglar was found hiding in a nearby warehouse." (But note that "at" can also mean "inside"; for example "Our reporter is now at the home of the victim" could mean that the reporter is inside the house.)
Dear Mr. Wordy,

"The fire started in an office on the first floor" (never "at an office on the first floor")

Would "A fire started at an office on/in Park road" work? Or "The fire started in an office first, and spread to rest of the building"? Do you mean it has a little to do with "on the xth floor"?

I hope you forgive me to have gone back to my earlier questions.

2. The reporter is at the scene talking to a man. The reporter says: This man told us that the fire safety equipment in the building was decades old and the fire doors at the nightclub were permanently opened. (a residential-cum-commerical building)

Would this original sentence with "this man" give an idea that he lives in the building? That's why "in" as in "safety equipment in the building was..." was used to the relationship closer to the man, while "fire doors at the nightclub" is more distant from him. (The fire actually started at the nightclub)



3. The anchor is reporting and he says: A lift in a Monk Kok building caught fire today. The pulley of the elevator caught fire at residential building.

The pattern "in a Named building" has caught my eyes a lot. If "a" is dropped, would it mean you have to use "at Named building" (Named building being the name of the building)

Thank you.

Tinanam

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