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IN, On, and AT


When English speakers talk about time and place, there
are three little words that often come up: in,
on, and at. These common
words are prepositions that show a relationship between two words in a

Some prepositions are rather easy for English learners
to understand: behind, over, under, next to, etc

But these little two-letter prepositions seem to
create confusion. Here are a few rules to help you understand when to use in,
on, and at in a sentence.

For describing time and place, the prepositions in,
on, and at go from general to specific

Prepositions and Time

Lets start by looking at how we talk about time.
English speakers use in to refer to a general, longer period of time,
such as months, years, decades, or centuries. For example, we say
in April, in 2015 or in the 21st

Moving to shorter, more specific periods of time, we
use on to talk about particular days, dates, and holidays . You may
hear, I went to work
on Monday, or Lets have a picnic on Memorial Day.

For the most specific times, and for holidays without
the word day, we use at. That means you will hear, Meet me
at midnight, or
The flowers are in bloom
at Easter time.



Parts of days (morning,
afternoon),  Months (April, May),
years, Centuries



Holidays with
day (Labor Day, Christmas day), Days of the week (Monday), Days of the month
(Fourth of July), Dates (April 15, my birthday).


Holidays without
" day" (Easter, New Year's) time (noon, midnight, 6 o'clock. 10



Prepositions and Place

When English speakers refer to a place, we use in
for the largest or most general places. You can say that VOA is located
in Washington, D.C.
And for the best food, try the restaurants
in Chinatown.

For more specific places, like certain streets, we use
the preposition on. You may know that President Obama lives
on Pennsylvania
in Washington, D.C.

Finally, we get to the most specific places. For exact
addresses or intersections, we use the preposition
at.  If I invited you to visit us here at VOA, I
would say, Come to my office
at 330 Independence Avenue. To be exact, its at the corner of
Independence and 3
rd Street.


Neighborhoods (Chinatown)
Cities (Washington) Countries (The United States) Places with a Boundary


Streets,  Avenues (Pennsylvania Ave.), Islands (Fiji),
Large vehicles (train, bus, ship) Surfaces



Addresses (1600 Pennsylvania
Ave.), Specific locations (home, the corner) points



In English, though, there is always an exception to
the rule. When talking about transportation, things get a little hard to
understand. We use on for public vehicles like buses or trains, but also
for smaller ones like a bicycle. I rode there
on my bicycle.
However, you ride
in a car.

Still, it helps to know that English prepositions do
have some rules.

Following the general to specific rule should help
you most of the time.

"Everyday Grammar":