Usage: At, on, in:
At, on and in are prepositions of place and show the position of people, places and things:
e.g. at the cinema on the wall in the shop
at + the + place: the cinema, theatre, school, BBE, cross roads etc.. e.g. at the bank.
at + specific place: Heathrow Airport, Buckingham Palace: e.g. at Notre Dame Cathedral.
at + specific address including the house number/name: e.g. at 33 rue de La Fayette, Paris.
N.B. In English, at is not normally used with names of villages, towns and cities.
on + a/the + surface of a place or object: shelf, wall, floor, ceiling etc.. e.g. on the table.
on + the directions: left/right/other side/nearside/far side: e.g. on the left.
on + levels of a building: first floor, second floor, top floor etc.. e.g. on the ground floor.
on + the + parts of a ship: port side/ starboard side/bow/stern.
on + parts of the body: his foot, her leg, our heads etc.. e.g. on his left arm.
on + a/the + types of transport: horse, bicycle, train, foot etc.. e.g. on the ferry, on a horse.
N.B. English people say in a car ( not on a car ).
in + names of countries: France, England, Poland etc.. e.g. in Belgium.
in + names of towns, villages, cities: Warsaw, London etc.. e.g. in Brussels.
in + named places: Buckingham Palace, the Louvre etc.. e.g. in Windsor Castle.
in + the + geographical regions: Auvergne, Lake District etc.. e.g. in the Alps.
in + streets, roads, avenues: Moniuszki, Fish Street etc.. e.g. in Stratford Avenue.
in + the + rooms and places: kitchen, bedroom, foyer, auditorium etc.. e.g. in the bathroom.
in + the + weather: sun, rain, hail, snow etc.. e.g. in the fog.
in + parts of the body: his foot, her leg, our heads etc.. e.g. in his foot.
in + a/the + types of transport: car, train, van, lorry, aeroplane, ship e.g. in a train.
A: In English, certain expressions are different, so must be learnt!
at the moment on holiday in a loud/angry/quiet/low voice
at this/that moment on the radio in a good/bad mood
at the same time on television in a bad temper
at no time on the menu in a suit
at present on the agenda in a new dress
at the end/beginning in clean/dirty/new shoes
B: Some expressions are used without a/the, here are some common examples:
at school in bed
at home in business
at school in hospital
at school in prison
at 37 k.p.h.
C: Both on and in can be used for types of transport and parts of the body:
On is used when the part of the body/type of transport is the most important detail.
In is used when position is the most important piece of information.
e.g. Peter travelled to London on the train. – type
John sat in the last carriage of the London train. – position
Joanna has a cut on her left arm. – part of the body
Ania has broken a bone in her wrist. – position in the body
D: At and in can be used with places which can contain large numbers of people: cinema, theatre, church, stadium etc..
At is used when the activity is the most important piece of information.
In is used when the place/position is the most important detail.
e.g. I will meet you for a meal at the usual restaurant.
Richard and Magda met in the foyer of the Royal Theatre.
E: Both at and to can be used with places:
At is used when there is no active movement in the phrase/sentence.
To is used when there is movement in the phrase/sentence
e.g. At school, there are forty teachers and four hundred pupils. – no movement
Marcin is cycling to London to visit his friends. – movement
F: Both at and to can follow certain verbs: the meaning of the verb is different in each case: to throw, run, shout.
e.g. Bill threw a stone to me. ( a friendly action )
Bill threw a stone at me. ( a hostile action: intending to hurt someone )
Maria ran to me. ( a friendly action )
Maria ran at me ( a hostile action: intending to attack )
Eric shouted to me. ( a friendly action )
Eric shouted at me ( a hostile action: intending to express anger )
G: The preposition by is often used with transport when the type of transport is very important: the common examples are: by aeroplane, bicycle, horse, car, ferry, horse, lorry, ship, train
e.g. The businessmen travelled to Africa by aeroplane and in Africa, they travelled by car.
N.B. Walking is travel on foot ( not by foot )