In vs At
Since it is a well known grammatical fact that both in and at are prepositions, let us have a good look at the difference between in and at to understand how to use them. They, in and at, may appear to be alike but have different usage in English grammar. First of all it is to be understood that in and at describe any noun in the location case. In other words, it can be said that in and at describe the location of a particular noun. Look at the two expressions, ‘in the house’ and ‘at the college’. Both these expressions give an idea about the location namely, ‘house’ and ‘college’ respectively.
What does In mean?
The preposition in is used to indicate the location of someone at a particular point of time. See the following example,
He was in the church when I went to his home.
Here, the person was in the location called church when his friend visited his home. The preposition in conveys the idea of well within. For example,
The thought occurred in the mind.
In the sentence above-mentioned, in conveys the meaning of well within.
If we take a look at what the Oxford English dictionary has to tell about the preposition in, the following definition can be given: “Expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else.”
She saw her face in the mirror.
However, this definition is just one of the several definitions given to in by the Oxford English dictionary.
Also read: Difference Between In and Inside
What does At mean?
The preposition at is used to indicate the proximity of nearness of something. For example, look at the following sentence.
The dog was at the gate.
In the sentence given above, the preposition at implies the nearness of the dog to the gate. Moreover, the preposition at does not always convey the idea of well within as preposition in does. Look at the following example.
He was in the canteen at the railway station.
In this particular sentence, the preposition at does not convey the meaning of well within, but only implies the idea that the canteen was present near the railway station or outside or attached to it.
Now, let us look at the definition given by the Oxford English dictionary. It goes as follows: “Expressing location or arrival in a particular place or position.”
They stopped at a motel on their way to New York.
What is the difference between In and At?
- In and at are both prepositions.
- The preposition in is used to indicate the location of someone at a particular point of time. The preposition at is used to indicate the proximity of nearness of something.
- The preposition in conveys the idea of well within. In contrary, the preposition at does not always convey the idea of well within.
As a matter of fact both the prepositions are used in phrases. These phrases too give different meanings according to the context. The common idea with which these two prepositions are used is, of course, to describe the noun in the locative case.