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  1. #1
    GoodDay is offline Newbie
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    Question Please help. In or at or both, who knows)

    Hello everyone,

    I've always been confused about "in" and "at" in the following examples:

    - Students can do a course in many colleges and schools.
    - If you pass your final exams at university you get a degree.

    Why do we say "in a college" and "at university"?
    Why and when do we use "at school" and "in the school"?
    Why is it sometimes just "at university" and "at the University"?

    I would appreciate if someone explained it to me in full or gave me a link to the material explaining this.

    I'm very confused :S


    Thank you.
    Last edited by GoodDay; 15-Jan-2012 at 14:05.

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Please help. In or at or both, who knows)

    I don't think you'll find a consistent answer with this one.

    You can take a course at the local college.
    He took a course in the local college.
    He is at college today (means he is attending college today, either as a student or a teacher).
    He is in the college at the moment (this just refers to his physical location, not to what he's doing there).
    The last two examples above can be used as a "rule" if you like as far as the meaning goes, but "in" and "at" are used in different ways too, to which that "rule" might not apply.

    There's a difference between BrE and AmE too.

    She's at school. BrE.
    She's in school. AmE.

  3. #3
    billmcd is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Please help. In or at or both, who knows)

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    I don't think you'll find a consistent answer with this one.

    You can take a course at the local college.
    He took a course in the local college.
    He is at college today (means he is attending college today, either as a student or a teacher).
    He is in the college at the moment (this just refers to his physical location, not to what he's doing there).
    The last two examples above can be used as a "rule" if you like as far as the meaning goes, but "in" and "at" are used in different ways too, to which that "rule" might not apply.

    There's a difference between BrE and AmE too.

    She's at school. BrE.
    She's in school. AmE.
    Actually, in AmE you will hear as many in's as you will hear at's.

  4. #4
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Please help. In or at or both, who knows)

    Quote Originally Posted by GoodDay View Post
    Why and when do we use "at school" and "in the school"?

    NOT A TEACHER


    In the United States of America:

    Policeman: I need to talk with your son. Where is he?

    Mother: Oh, officer, he's at school now. He'll be back home in about an hour.

    Policeman: Ok, ma'am. I'll wait for him to return from school.

    ***

    Mrs. Smith: I'm so proud of my daughter. She is a model, you know! Everyone says

    that she is so beautiful!

    Mrs. Jones: That's nice.

    Mrs. Smith: And what does your daughter do?

    Mrs.Jones: Oh, she doesn't have a job. She's in school. ( = she's a student.) She is

    going to graduate next year. She already has a job offer at a big corporation. Her

    starting salary will be $10,000 a month.

    Mrs. Smith: That's nice.

  5. #5
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Please help. In or at or both, who knows)

    Quote Originally Posted by GoodDay View Post
    Hello everyone,

    I've always been confused about "in" and "at" in the following examples:

    - Students can do a course in many colleges and schools.
    - If you pass your final exams at university you get a degree.

    Why do we say "in a college" and "at university"? We don't necessarily, it would depend on the context.
    Why and when do we use "at school" and "in the school"? Give us some examples of how you understand the difference.
    Why is it sometimes just "at university" and "at the University"? Why do you think it might be like that?

    I would appreciate if someone explained it to me in full or gave me a link to the material explaining this.

    I'm very confused :S


    Thank you.
    Bhai.

  6. #6
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Please help. In or at or both, who knows)

    The usage of 'at' and 'in' is one of the most common questions asked, and there have been some good answers given. It's a pity that the search engine refuses to deal with such little words, since good answers, although given every week, are lost to the system.

  7. #7
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
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    Default Re: Please help. In or at or both, who knows)

    I suppose this "in/at" dilemma may seem a minor issue for native speakers but it is a source of paralysing inhibition or self-consciousness for ESL speakers.

    I am often so disconcerted (particularly when expected to "shine" or impart my second hand knowledge to others) that I can positively think of nothing else and therefore get stuck and even if I overcome my perturbation, the guilt (for trying to sweep under the carpet the shortcomings in my education) continues to lurk at the back of my head.

    In short, what I learnt from earlier posts in this thread comes as a relief and perhaps will serve to make my self imposed opression less intense.

    Thank you GD for bringing the topic up.

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