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    #1

    Work in an airport

    This comes from the book Brainy 6 published by Macmillan Education.

    In the unit dedicated to talking about jobs, the author lists...

    I work in an airport
    I work in a post office
    I work in a hospital
    I work in a supermarket

    ...as valid answers to the question "What do you do?". This is meant to be an exchange between two people who don't know each other, and one person asks about the other person's day job.

    A: "Hi, I'm A."
    B: "Hi, A. I'm B. Nice to meet you."
    A: "Nice to meet you, too. What do you do, B?"
    A: "I work in an airport."

    The preposition in feels awkward to me... I'd use at in this case. Is in correct here?
    Last edited by Glizdka; 26-Feb-2020 at 10:07.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Work in an airport

    In all four examples, both "in" and "at" are grammatical and natural.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Work in an airport

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    The preposition in feels awkward to me... I'd use at in this case.
    It shouldn't feel awkward because both prepositions are possible. You do understand that different prepositions have different meanings/uses, right?

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    #4

    Re: Work in an airport

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    It shouldn't feel awkward because both prepositions are possible. You do understand that different prepositions have different meanings/uses, right?
    I hope I do, but it seems I don't.

    My problem starts where most learner errors do - there's no equivalent of at in my first language. We have two prepositions that roughly do what in, on, and at do in English. I had to understand at from scratch. If "I work in an airport" is correct and natural in the context given in post #1, my understanding of at may be fundamentally wrong.

    I see in as one thing containing another.



    In a physical sense, inside the borders defined by what B is. When I hear "I work in an airport", it sounds as if I'm being informed that the person's job takes place inside a building I can define as an airport. That would be, say, a janitor or a person servicing the equipment.

    Suppose I'm employed by NASA. If I said "I work in NASA", would it be correct? It doesn't feel correct to me at all, in the same sense "I work in an airport" doesn't. It's not the building I want to refer to, it's the organization. An organization doesn't feel like something I should think of in terms of "volume of space to be filled with", and that's how it feels with in.


    I see at as giving the coordinates, like in a three-dimensional space where each direction can be defined, certain points named, and at referring to one of the points. At feels like a point to me, itself zero-dimensional, but whose location can be described. There's also some sense of proximity, like quatum superposition, not rigidly defining the location, but showing the approximate location. So "being at an airport" would refer to the premises of the object, not necessarily being inside, and "being in an airport" would refer to having walked through the entrance and being enclosed by the building.

    I feel I should think of an organization in terms of a "point", as a unitary and indivisible entity. If its localization, its coordinates, coincides with my localization, we can be both described by the same coordinates. My job, what I do, is the same as what NASA is. My job is NASA. "I work at NASA". The analogous, I feel, should apply to "I work at an airport".

    In this sense, at in "I work at an airport" feels very similar to at in "I'm at work from eight to six", and in in"I'm in work from eight to six" feels as awkward as in in "I work in an airport" to me.

    What is wrong with my line of thinking?
    Last edited by Glizdka; 27-Feb-2020 at 00:02.

  5. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Work in an airport

    I don't think I can explain the nuance of it, but we'd say "I work for NASA" or "I work at NASA". We wouldn't say "I work in NASA".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #6

    Re: Work in an airport

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    I don't think I can explain the nuance of it, but we'd say "I work for NASA" or "I work at NASA". We wouldn't say "I work in NASA".
    Could NASA being a proper noun have anything to do with it?

    Can you name an example of "I work in [article][non-proper noun]", in the context provided in post #1, that is incorrect?

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    #7

    Re: Work in an airport

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    I see in as one thing containing another.



    In a physical sense, inside the borders defined by what B is. When I hear "I work in an airport", it sounds as if I'm being informed that the person's job takes place inside a building I can define as an airport. That would be, say, a janitor or a person servicing the equipment.
    Yes, that's all correct.

    Suppose I'm employed by NASA. If I said "I work in NASA", would it be correct?
    No.

    It's not the building I want to refer to, it's the organization. An organization doesn't feel like something I should think of in terms of "volume of space to be filled with", and that's how it feels with in.
    An airport is not an organisation, it's a space. At least, it is in the utterance I work in an airport.


    I see at as giving the coordinates, like in a three-dimensional space where each direction can be defined, certain points named, and at referring to one of the points. At feels like a point to me, itself zero-dimensional, but whose location can be described. There's also some sense of proximity, like quatum superposition, not rigidly defining the location, but showing the approximate location. So "being at an airport" would refer to the premises of the object, not necessarily being inside, and "being in an airport" would refer to having walked through the entrance and being enclosed by the building.
    Yes, that's exactly right.

    I feel I should think of an organization in terms of a "point", as a unitary and indivisible entity. If its localization, its coordinates, coincides with my localization, we can be both described by the same coordinates. My job, what I do, is the same as what NASA is. My job is NASA. "I work at NASA". The analogous, I feel, should apply to "I work at an airport".
    Yes, that's right.

    In this sense, at in "I work at an airport" feels very similar to at in "I'm at work from eight to six", and in in"I'm in work from eight to six" feels as awkward as in in "I work in an airport" to me.
    Okay. Don't say I'm in work from eight to six. Use at.

    What is wrong with my line of thinking?
    Not much, really. I think you understand pretty well. What you're not seeing is that in I work in an airport, the airport is seen as a three-dimensional spatial field, not a one-dimensional point in spacetime.

  8. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Work in an airport

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    Could NASA being a proper noun have anything to do with it?
    Well, sort of, yes, but this is not related to grammar. It's entirely semantic.

    Can you name an example of "I work in [article][non-proper noun]", in the context provided in post #1, that is incorrect?
    I don't understand. You can obviously say I work in an airport, as we're telling you.

    Another point to make here is that we use in when the thing is seen as a metaphorical (conceptual) spatial field—for example an academic or vocational field:

    I work in bioengineering.
    I work in government.

    Both prepositional objects here are seen as conceptual spaces. The connection to physical space is purely metaphorical.

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    #9

    Re: Work in an airport

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I don't understand. You can obviously say I work in an airport, as we're telling you.
    I asked for one that would be incorrect. Can you think of an example where "work in [article][non-proper noun]" would not work?

    I think I can think of an example where "work at [article][non-proper noun]" wouldn't work, though. Possibly only because I still don't get it; let's check.

    "I have a hearing problem. I work in a noisy factory where you can hear the deafening sound of the machinery even through headphones."

    Would "I work at a noisy factory" be fine as well in the context of the poor manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Another point to make here is that we use in when the thing is seen as a metaphorical (conceptual) spatial field—for example an academic or vocational field:

    I work in bioengineering.
    I work in government.

    Both prepositional objects here are seen as conceptual spaces. The connection to physical space is purely metaphorical.
    I have absolutely no problem with that use of in whatsoever.

    It's not "work[preposition]" that I have a problem with. It's "[preposition][location]".

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    #10

    Re: Work in an airport

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    I have a hearing problem. I work in a noisy factory ….
    That's the most natural preposition, but at is not impossible. If I heard a native speaker say it, I'd think they'd hesitated about exactly what they were going to say and slightly garbled the sentence.
    I am not a teacher.

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