I would like to ask an ever-confusing question regarding the use of the AT, AT THE, IN and IN THE in front of the verbs hospital, school, prison and church.
I know the basic differences, of course (where to use THE and where not), but when it comes to these four words, I never know how to use them correctly, because there is no grammar book explaining them correctly.
My questions with examples (which of the two options is correct?):
- The injured are in hospital OR at hospital?
- The other day I was in the hospital OR at the hospital to see my old fellow?
'in' if you're sick, 'at' when you visit someone. However, you could use 'in' to just mean 'in the building' but the context would make it clear.
[A is looking all over for B after the two of them left a mall near a hospital.]
A: Where have you been? I've been looking for you everywhere.
B: [pointing] I was in the hospital. I had to go to the can really bad and it was the closest place.
- The children are in school OR at school?
- My parents were in the school OR at the school?
Both are okay for the first sentence and mean pretty much the same thing. In keeping with in's more specific reference, 'in school' might have more of a feeling of 'in study time now', whereas 'at', being slightly more general, means more 'at the location of school'.
Again, both work, but the context would determine choice.
My parents were in the school when the bomb went off.
My parents were at the school for a parent/teacher conference.
- The prisoner is in prison OR at prison?
- The other day I was in the prison OR at the prison to see my old fellow?
- Believers are in church OR at church every Sunday?
- The tourists were in the local church or at the local church?
And last but not least, is there any logic for using them?
Read my comments for the use wrt hospital and try to decide for yourself what would be used for the above examples, Balazs.