English Learner Article Prepositions AT & IN in Manner, Place & Time

Summary: A look at the different uses of the prepositions 'in' and 'at'.

By: |Audience: All|Category: English Grammar Usage Articles & Notes

Prepositions have a life of their own. They are also adverbial in meaning because they like adverbs can show time, place, manner and reason. They link words and establish relationships. They are pre-positions. Every text is punctuated with them. This makes it difficult to predict which preposition will appear before a noun. But it is possible to make some generalizations. AT for example can be best compared with IN. Additionally Prepositions AT /IN can be used for time and place. Since AT is a point it takes aim at things and can therefore be aggressive in manner in comparison with IN’s or TO’s friendly behaviour.


Selective, position (meeting point)

Spatial (room)

at the baker’s

at the stationer’s

at the doctor’s

at home


He is a student at Cambridge (university)

He lives at 10 Downing Street.

at first

at last

The sign @ is called “Commercial AT” and not “Commercial IN” because this is the point where you can contact people online


We should arrive at Betty’s in time for lunch.

BE vs. AmE

At he corner

In Albert Street .

At school

In my house

In the office

In the room

In the house

He lives in Cambridge (city).

He lives in Downing Street

In the first place

When did you arrive in Bremen?

On the corner

On Albert Street .

In school


Point of Time

Period of Time

at eight O’clock

at the moment

at midnight

At only refers to the point of start /end

at the beginning

at the end

In the morning

In the afternoon

In the evening

IN show shows a change/development

In the beginning

In the end

Since AT is a point it takes aim at or targets things. No wonder verbs which are aggressive in behaviour like: shout, hit par with AT.


Aggressive Behaviour (Targeting)

Friendly or neutral behaviour

They threw the ball at me

He kicked the ball at her

They shot at the enemy

She shouted at me

He pointed at the man

He drove the car straight at the lady.

He came at me with a knife.

She talked at me.

Why are you looking at her like that?

She laughed at me

They threw the ball to me

He kicked the ball to her

She shot the puck to her team mate

She shouted to me.

He pointed at people.

He drove to the lady.

He came to me.

She talked with/to me.

Friendly Targeting

She smiled at me

Language Comparisons

Some languages like German are very spatial. English by contrast can be selective, point by point or spatial



good in mathematics

bad in mathematics

good at mathematics

bad at mathematics

Idiomatic Expressions

At last

At least

At any rate

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