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  1. #1
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    Default in back of or at the back of ?

    Dear all,
    I have seen a phrase which confuses me a lot. Usually, when we want to say something is behind other things, we would use the expression, at the back of..... . For example, the chair is at the back of the television. However, the expression, in back of, is strange to me. I think people wouldn't say the chair is in back of the television though I have seen the expression, in back of, appear in the dictionary. I believe "at the back of " is a much formal expression than "in back of ". I'd appreciate any explaination you could give me. Thanks.

  2. #2
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: in back of or at the back of ?

    At the back of means inside (or attached to) something and at the rear of it.

    The person farthest from the screen is at the back of the theater.
    The last people to arrive are at the back of the line.
    The vertical stabilizer is at the back of the airplane.

    In back of means behind.

    The trash is kept in back of the store. (It is outside, behind the store.)
    The trash is kept at the back of the store. (It is inside, far from the front.)

    The chair is in back of the television. (Someone in the chair can't see the television.)
    The chair is at the back of the television. (This doesn't make sense in English because the chair would have to be inside, or attached to the rear of the television.)

  3. #3
    sitifan is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: in back of or at the back of ?

    1. We drove behind the bus.
    2. We drove in back of the bus.
    #1 is correct. Is #2 also acceptable in American English?

  4. #4
    sitifan is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: in back of or at the back of ?

    ESL Forums • View topic - behind & in back of
    'In back (of)' is an American English synonym for 'behind'. British English would use 'at the back (of)'.

  5. #5
    jctgf is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: in back of or at the back of ?

    This is a very good question and I'm also in doubt about it, please.

    I'd like to know what's the meaning of "in the back of" once you didn't mention it. Coca cites for example "They used to stand in the back of the room and laugh for me.".

    Also, I found the following examples on Coca:

    1. "And here I am, sitting in the back of a police car with handcuffs on...". Shouldn't it be "in back"?

    2. "She must have songs locked in the back of her mind...". Shouldn't it be "at the back"?

    Thanks.

  6. #6
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: in back of or at the back of ?

    'In the back of...' is correct BrE, 'In back of...' is not.

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