Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Pesky Prepositions! How to Talk about Locations in English

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Sep 16, 2013 @ 07:37 AM

prepositions of place for adult English learnersOne of the most confusing grammar points for adult English learners is trying to figure out whether to use "in," "on," or "at" when you talk about locations and places.

Have you figured this out yet?

Are you still suffering with confusion about English prepositions?

If you aren't sure how to use these prepositions, then today's lesson is for you.






Here are the basic rules:


overview of in on at prepositions




When do I use "in"?


prepositions of place powerpoint in

Use the preposition "in" when you are talking about something that you can physically enter or that you can place something inside of such as:

  • I am standing in the room (I can enter a room)
  • I put the chicken in the oven
  • I am swimming in a pool



More examples:


  • My wallet is in my pocket.
  • The kids are in the car.
  • How long did you live in New York?
  • Boston is in the Northeast region of the United States



When do I use "at"?


prepositions of place powerpoint atYou should use "at" when you want to indicate a specific location or place. For example:

  • We wait for bus number 39 at the bus stop
  • I buy my groceries at the farmer's market
  • Turn left at the end of the block
  • Please wait at my desk if you want to speak with me.




More examples:


  • I will meet you at the entrance.
  • Let's pick up some books at the library.
  • I spend my vacations at the mountains.
  • He'll wait for us at the top of the mountain.



When do I use "on"?


prepositions of place powerpoint  onWe use "on" when we want to say that something is resting on a vertical or horizontal surface.

We can say:

  • We sat on the bench
  • I put the poster on the wall
  • Put your feet on the floor





More examples:


  • Please put the silverware on the table.
  • Drive one mile and store will be on your left.
  • What's on the menu?
  • I'm on my way to school.



Remember, these are just rules and there are many examples that don't always follow the rules. You should try to memorize prepositions in the context of a phrase such as "It's on your right" or "The pen is in my pocket."

Let me know if you have any questions. Good luck!


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Inforgraphic: feet in water: AirBeagle, zebras: glasseyes view, hat on head: Nic's events, at house: Kevin Saff, in house: scarletgreen, on the house: Artur Staszewski

Topics: English grammar

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