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  1. yuriya's Avatar
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    #1

    work & prepositions

    Dear all,

    Here are some preposition choices, which I don't seem to have a good grip on.
    Some of the combinations don't sound right to me, but I don't know why.
    Please explain those subtle little differences in plain English. Thanks in advance!

    1. He works at/in/for/with IBM.

    2. He works at/in/for/with McDonald's.

    3. He is with IBM/McDonald's.

    4. He works for/under me.


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    #2

    Re: work & prepositions

    Hello! I think I can help you with these. I apologize if I say something that is confusing, and feel free to ask questions.

    Numbers 1 (He works at/in/for/with IBM.) and 2 (He works at/in/for/with McDonald's.) are very close to each other in meaning, so I will try to answer both of these at once.

    The generally correct answer for this would be "He works for IBM." I understand your trouble with these. Most people would say "for" because it tells the reader that IBM is the employer, and "he" was the employee.

    With in, it says to the reader that "he" works physically inside IBM, which is probably not what you want for it to mean and is phrased difficultly (or, in short, you just don't say it!). For example, you would say that I worked in the kitchen, but not that you worked in the specific resturant (such as McDonalds)

    With at, it too says to the reader that he works physically inside IBM, but, well, it's correct. It uses IBM as a place rather than an employer, and it is assumed by the reader that by IBM you mean the buildings at which you would work at IBM.

    With, well, with, it says to the reader that you and IBM of are equal value/worth, while you presumably mean that IBM is more important than you, and you are an employee.

    To tell you the truth, the only one of these that you really couldn't say would be "in," and slightly "with." With the others, though meaning slightly different things, in the type of conversation you are talking about, all will work. The English language is surprisingly flexible like that.


    3. He is with IBM/McDonald's.

    This is an oddly put sentence. Either IBM or McDonald's would work, though you may want to use a word other than "with" for the reasons above.

    4. He works for/under me.

    While both would work, one would generally say "for," as, in this example, the "under" could be confusing to the reader, as they could think that you mean that he works in the floor "under" you, and, other than that, the term "under" in this context is generally no longer used.

    Once again, feel free to ask questions.

  2. yuriya's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: work & prepositions

    Thank you, you're my lifesaver! Treating a firm either as an employer or as a place of work clears things up when choosing between for and at. Still, I'm not so sure about at and in. For example, I don't really see anything wrong or much difference in the following examples:

    I had dinner at/in the restaurant.
    I bought it at/in the supermarket.


    Does the verb "work" (work at, not in) have something to do with it or am I just wrong again?

    Also, please consider the following sentences concerning the preposition, with.

    He's with the Bureau.
    He's with ABC
    (ABC being the name of a law firm, consulting firm, accounting firm etc.)
    Last edited by yuriya; 29-Apr-2010 at 11:48.


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    #4

    Re: work & prepositions

    These are slightly less obvious answers. With "I had dinner at/in the restaurant," and "I bought it at/in the supermarket," in all conversational reality, either would be acceptable. Personally, I like this explanation:

    In - Is usually used to state that someone or something is in a (the boundaries can be physical or virtual place.
    At - Is usually used to state something or someone is at a specific place.

    At - a specific place; at the mall; at the table; at work.
    In - a place that is enclosed or within boundaries; in the city; in the box; in the park.

    With this in mind, in those two sentences, one would generally say "at" rather than "in."


    Quote Originally Posted by yuriya View Post
    Does the verb "work" (work at, not in) have something to do with it or am I just wrong again?
    I'm not sure what you mean, could you elaborate?

    As for your concerns with "with," those both make perfect sense. With firms (law firms, accounting firms) in particular, "with" and "for" have practically the same meaning, as the employees at firms are generally higher considered than general workers, and therefore of closer to equal importance with the firms that they work at--if that makes any sense to you at all.

    Once again, feel free to ask any questions that may arise.
    Last edited by TheFuzzyTie; 29-Apr-2010 at 23:40. Reason: Formatting issues.

  3. yuriya's Avatar
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    #5

    Smile Re: work & prepositions

    Thanks, TheFuzzyTie! I really appreciate what you are doing for me here. It feels like I'm finally getting at the answers that have been eluding me for quite a while.

    Coming back to the questions I raised, I had the following on mind when I asked if the verb "work" had anything to do with the selection of prepositions before place-nouns. That is, to my innate English grammar (which seems obviously not in sync with that of the natives) either prepositions sounded OK in the following examples.

    I had dinner at/in the restaurant.
    I bought it at/in the supermarket.

    Does the verb "work" (work at, not in) have something to do with it or am I just wrong again?
    And yet you sounded as if to say that we don't really use in in constructions like He works at/in MacDonald.

    To tell you the truth, the only one of these that you really couldn't say would be "in," and slightly "with."
    However, after reading your second batch of explanation, I came to realize that when describing activity it would be better to use the preposition at rather than in before place-nouns or building-nouns unless you wanted to emphasize something was inside or within boundaries of some sort. Am I on the right track? Following your logic, if I'm right, it would be better then to say "She works at a shop" rather than "She works in a shop. On the other hand, it would be more natural to say "There are seven tables in the shop" rather than "at the shop." But then, "There are seven tables at the shop" sounds a little off but "She works in a shop" doesn't sound so bad, don't you agree?

    By the way, relating activity with the preposition at led me to an yet another question. Questions spring eternal. I don't know if you are following 24, the Jack Bouer series but I do. In recent episode, Jack the hero goes against US president to expose her attempted cover-up of Russia's involvement with terrorists against a peace treaty. Chloe, the faithful friend of Jack, who is in charge of the New York branch, doesn't want to see him injured or dead so she orders her staff to locate Jack in order to bring him in safe. And one of the staff says, "I'm on it!"

    To me, the distinction between I'm on it and I'm at it is not so clear, and if there's any, I'm not sure if they are right either. So I think it would be better to blurt out what's in my mind and hope that you would sort them out for me.

    At seems to be used in order to express that someone is doing something, so if I say "while we are at it" it seems to imply that while we are doing(dealing with) one thing, why not do another related thing. And "Keep at it" sounds to me "Keep at what you're doing, continue, carry on that sort of thing.

    ON reminds me of "concerning" and "trying to make something work better". So if I say I'm on it, I mean that I am working (or will work) on it. "You are on it, too?" sounds like either "Are you working on it?, Are you part of it as well?" or "You too know about this?" And when using on some sort of selection seems to be involved as well, when I say "He's on the team." or "you are on!" So when the above staff in the episode says "I'm on it" seems to imply that he appoints himself or volunteers to take care of the problem. I hope I'm not completely wrong. Thanks in advance and have a nice weekend!

    Oh, one more thing with with. If someone says, "He's with ABC law firm," it implies that he is a lawyer not a paralegal or the lowly staff? And if a cleaning staff in the FBI claims that he is with the Bureau it would be downright wrong, wouldn't it?
    Last edited by yuriya; 30-Apr-2010 at 13:30. Reason: addition: with

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    #6

    Re: work & prepositions

    Hello!
    I've been discussing almost the same thing here: https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/a...eposition.html

    Check it out!

  4. yuriya's Avatar
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    #7

    Smile Re: work & prepositions

    Thanks, it was worth the visit. Have a nice weekend!


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    #8

    Re: work & prepositions

    My my, I've been having a long past few days. Sorry to take so long to get back to you here!

    Quote Originally Posted by yuriya View Post
    Following your logic, if I'm right, it would be better then to say "She works at a shop" rather than "She works in a shop. On the other hand, it would be more natural to say "There are seven tables in the shop" rather than "at the shop." But then, "There are seven tables at the shop" sounds a little off but "She works in a shop" doesn't sound so bad, don't you agree?
    The English language is really a rather odd one, even for native speakers. Generally, you would say "She works at a shop," yes. However, in the case of "there are seven tables in the shop," that would be correct too!

    Honestly, you really seem to be understanding this--I know from experience that, with most people who truly get English, they can't tell you exactly perfectly why something is phrased one way, they just know naturally, you say something one way or another.

    Quote Originally Posted by yuriya View Post
    By the way, relating activity with the preposition at led me to an yet another question. Questions spring eternal. I don't know if you are following 24, the Jack Bouer series but I do. In recent episode, Jack the hero goes against US president to expose her attempted cover-up of Russia's involvement with terrorists against a peace treaty. Chloe, the faithful friend of Jack, who is in charge of the New York branch, doesn't want to see him injured or dead so she orders her staff to locate Jack in order to bring him in safe. And one of the staff says, "I'm on it!"

    To me, the distinction between I'm on it and I'm at it is not so clear, and if there's any, I'm not sure if they are right either. So I think it would be better to blurt out what's in my mind and hope that you would sort them out for me.
    In this case, when one of the staff members responds "I'm on it," it's more of a phrase--short for "I'm on [the task that which you assigned me]." If one were to say "I'm at it," they would have to be responding in some conversation like this--(and even then, really, you wouldn't say it):

    [On the phone]
    What's up, Joe?
    Not much, wanna head to the zoo?
    The zoo? I'm at it.
    Even then, just don't use it (then again, I'm not infallible, you could probably come up with a use on it's own that would be acceptable, I just honestly can't think up one).

    Quote Originally Posted by yuriya View Post
    At seems to be used in order to express that someone is doing something, so if I say "while we are at it" it seems to imply that while we are doing(dealing with) one thing, why not do another related thing. And "Keep at it" sounds to me "Keep at what you're doing, continue, carry on that sort of thing.
    Bingo. This is completely correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by yuriya View Post
    ON reminds me of "concerning" and "trying to make something work better". So if I say I'm on it, I mean that I am working (or will work) on it. "You are on it, too?" sounds like either "Are you working on it?, Are you part of it as well?" or "You too know about this?" And when using on some sort of selection seems to be involved as well, when I say "He's on the team." or "you are on!" So when the above staff in the episode says "I'm on it" seems to imply that he appoints himself or volunteers to take care of the problem. I hope I'm not completely wrong. Thanks in advance and have a nice weekend!
    As I stated before, you seem to really be getting this.

    Quote Originally Posted by yuriya View Post
    Oh, one more thing with with. If someone says, "He's with ABC law firm," it implies that he is a lawyer not a paralegal or the lowly staff? And if a cleaning staff in the FBI claims that he is with the Bureau it would be downright wrong, wouldn't it?
    This is also correct. If I was a janitor at ABC Law, I wouldn't say "I'm with ABC Law," I would say "I work at ABC Law"

    Just as a side note--Keep at this! Your grasp on the English language is great! There are a few basic phrasing and typographical problems (and, of course, a minor case of the most generally annoying common mistake of ESL students--the overuse of the comma), but I think at your rate of understanding, you'll be able to iron a lot of these out.

    Once again, if you have any questions, feel free to ask me.

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