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Thread: In/at school

  1. #1
    IlmatawTam is offline Newbie
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    Default In/at school

    Hi, what's the difference between in/at?

    For example, when do we say "in school" and "at school"?
    Thank you!

  2. #2
    RonBee's Avatar
    RonBee is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: In/at school

    We usually use "at" to denote a specific location.
    .
    Q: Where are you?
    A: I'm at school.

  3. #3
    Linguist__ is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: In/at school

    (Not a teacher)

    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee View Post
    We usually use "at" to denote a specific location.
    .
    Q: Where are you?
    A: I'm at school.
    Perhaps it's just bad use of language, or American English vs. British English, but I find both 'in' and 'at' interchangeable in this case, and most other cases of places I can think of.

    "I met my friend at the pub", "I met my friend in the pub". I can't see any difference/problem with using either.

    I can see that 'school' doesn't require the article, but even so; "What did you do in school today?" sounds just as correct to me as "What did you do at school today?".

    Unless I just think I hear it!

  4. #4
    sarat_106 is offline Key Member
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    Exclamation Re: In/at school

    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee View Post
    We usually use "at" to denote a specific location.
    .
    Q: Where are you?
    A: I'm at school.
    I agree fully with RonBee, "I'm at..." refers to a specific, absolute location. This is what most teachers teach in early lessons on preposition. I am at Paris does not make any sense, you should rather say I am in Paris.(within the perimeter or boundary of Paris). You could also say: I am at the Eiffel tower in Paris.
    Let us try to understand the intrinsic differences between the two words which make the meaning clear: If I'm in the river, I'm either swimming and wet or I'm in (or on) a boat. If I'm at the river, I'm probably on the bank or really on land near the river.

    I am at school means near the school which is invariably outside may be at the gate..

    I am in school. means inside the school which is always within and not outside..

  5. #5
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: In/at school

    Quote Originally Posted by sarat_106 View Post

    I am at school means near the school which is invariably outside may be at the gate..

    I am in school. means inside the school which is always within and not outside..
    No, I can't agree with this at all. "I'm at the school" or "I'm at the pub" or "I'm at the church" can certainly mean inside. It's a less general location.

    The real difference is I'm at school versus I'm at the school, or I'm at church versus I'm at the church.

    Without the article, you're there to attend, participate. With the article, it's just a building.

    But if you say "Where's Mary?" and the answer is "She's in/at school" (or she's in/at church) there's not a lot of difference.
    Last edited by Barb_D; 19-Dec-2009 at 12:47.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    sitifan is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: In/at school

    When we think of someone who is enrolled as a student, we use "in school".
    My five-year old will be in school for the first time this fall.
    Did you see that little kid running around in the neighbor's yard? Believe it or not, he's already in school.
    Summer is over. Now all the children are in school again.
    Paul! I hear you took a job with IBM after graduating from high school. -- No, actually I'm still in school. I'm attending the University of Wyoming. I'm just in California now for a week's vacation, so I'm not at school now.

    We we think of someone who is physically present on the grounds of the school, whether outside or inside of the school, participating in the activities of the school, we use "at school".
    I wonder what Johnny is doing at school today.
    What kinds of things do you do at school?
    Do you play football at school?
    Where is your little daughter? -- She's at school. -- On Saturday? --Yes; they're at school rehearsing a play she's in.

    When we think of someone physically inside the school building, we use "in school" or "at school".
    Most students are in school at this hour of the day.
    Most students are at school at this hour of the day.

    (These illustrate usage in American English.)

    In school, at school

  7. #7
    sitifan is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: In/at school

    in the school - under the roof of the school building (said of a person OR thing)
    at the school - in or near the school building (said of a person OR thing)
    in school - being educated in or at a school; occupied with being educated (said of a person)
    at school - located at a school; attending a class in a school (said of a person)
    You can say that there is an auditorium in the school, but the auditorium is not in school or at school.
    You can say that there is a playground at the school, but the playground is not in school or at school.
    Auditoriums and playgrounds cannot be educated or attend classes.
    In general, at X means participating in the activities associated with X. at school, at work, at court, at prayer, at band practice, at football practice.
    In, at

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    The French is offline Senior Member
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    Question Re: In/at school

    Hello Barbara,

    You wrote:

    The real difference is I'm at school versus I'm at the school, or I'm at church versus I'm at the church.

    Without the article, you're there to attend, participate. With the article, it's just a building.

    I have just read your answer and I am a little perplex, you are telling us that you are in the building when you say: ' I am at school' . I have always learnt that the preposition 'at' is used to show a special location and the other preposition 'in' it's for things or somebody who are in building or house.

    Do you believe , I'm wrong?

    See you later on the forum or in forum?

  9. #9
    bhaisahab's Avatar
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    Default Re: In/at school

    In BrE we usually say "at school" to mean studying at a primary or secondary level educational establishment. For example, "Where is John today?", "He's at school".
    Last edited by bhaisahab; 19-Dec-2009 at 18:58.

  10. #10
    The French is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: In/at school

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    In BrE we usually say "at school" to means studying at a primary or secondary level educational establishment. For example, "Where is John today?", "He's at school".
    Good afternoon teacher,

    I have read this "little struggle" about the use of these two prepositions and sometimes people use 'at' to show us that the person is outside a house or a construction, but I can see it depends of the countries.

    If I summarize the different uses of 'at' and 'in', I think it's better to have a bigger article or extract of the whole text, to see clearly the meaning of the writer. Like in French, we can find in writting text 'Je suis ŕ (at) l'école' and 'Je suis dans (in) l'école'.

    It seems to me that the border line between these two words isn't very tall.

    I like precision but in this case, I prefer stay with my perception of both words.

    Thanks for you reply and have snowy day.

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