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  1. #1
    stuartnz's Avatar
    stuartnz is offline Senior Member
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    Idiomatic preposition choice

    Or perhaps the subject line could have been "Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

    I'm on the prowl for some good basic material for beginner's ESOL lessons. I came across a 10-question quiz on prepositions, and got one wrong! Here it is:

    Q: He works ____ a bank.
    (1) in
    (2) at
    (3) on
    (4) to

    The answer I chose was "(2) at". This usage is standard in NZ English, and is heard at least as often as the answer that the quizmaster stipulated "(1) in". My question has to do with this sort of idiomatic variation. Am I better to follow the example of the person who set this quiz and tell my students to use "in", marking "at" as "wrong" for the sake of simplicity, or can I tell them that in the English they are going to hear used all around them, either option is like to be used?

  2. #2
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Re: Idiomatic preposition choice

    Normally in Britain it will be "work in a bank".

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    stuartnz's Avatar
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    Re: Idiomatic preposition choice

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    Normally in Britain it will be "work in a bank".

    Thanks for the reply. As I mentioned, it's probably 50/50 here, so what I'm wondering is whether I should tell my students this or just get them using the one that is preferred elsewhere.
    Last edited by stuartnz; 18-Mar-2008 at 01:01.

  4. #4
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Re: Idiomatic preposition choice

    When you use the verb "work" with a location, do you always use "at"? So far as I can tell, "in" would be the accepted normal preposition, with occasions when "at" is an alternative.

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    stuartnz's Avatar
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    Re: Idiomatic preposition choice

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    When you use the verb "work" with a location, do you always use "at"? So far as I can tell, "in" would be the accepted normal preposition, with occasions when "at" is an alternative.

    It seems that my own communication skills are lacking in clarity. I thought that I had explained that here in NZ, the choice is 50/50. Both in my personal use in the usage I hear from others in various registers, "at" and "in" are interchangeable. There is no discernible preference. If my meaning is still not clear, please forgive me, but after three attempts to convey the same thought, I'm out of further rephrasing options.

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    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Re: Idiomatic preposition choice

    It's late at night. I had gathered what you said, but you were also asking what to tell your students, and was trying to work out what might be the best answer.

    Probably what you suggest - both are to be found but that they may be penalised for using "at".

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    stuartnz's Avatar
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    Re: Idiomatic preposition choice

    If anyone is in a position to offer an answer to the question I asked in my original post, I'd be grateful. Thanks!

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