Preposition Use - in / at / on - prepositions of place

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Writing your name at the top of the page. Adam Angelides / Getty Images

This guide to the prepositions "in", "at" and "on" used as prepositions of place provides basic rules for beginning level English learners and classes. Each preposition has proper uses with three examples to help with understanding. Important exceptions are also included at the end of the lesson. Use this lesson to understand preposition use. In order to practice, write practice sentences using "in", "at" and "on" with various examples similar to the examples provided.

In

Use 'in' with cities, regions, counties, states and countries.

I live in Portland which is a city in Oregon.
She works in Seattle which is in King County. 

Use 'in' with spaces that you can physically walk into, or place something into. These could be inside or buildings or outside as well.

in a room / in a building -> indoors

Let's meet in the gym after class. 
I'm going to see Tom in that building over there.

in a garden / in a park -> outdoors

I enjoy walking in the garden at dusk.
She's out jogging with her friends in the park. 

Use 'in' with bodies of water:

in the water

That duck is swimming in the water. 
You can see the fish in the water.

in the sea / river / lake / pond / ocean

Unfortunately, there's a lot of pollution in this sea.
I wonder how many whales are still swimming in the oceans.
There are some beautiful rocks in the pond. 
How many fishing lines can you see in the river?

Use 'in' with lines:

in a row / line / queue 

There are so many people standing in that queue. 
Please stand in a row and let me count you.
You'll have to stand in that line over there. 

At

Use 'at' with places in a town, city or other community:

at the bus-stop / movies / shopping mall / park / museum / etc. 

I'll meet you at the bus stop.
I saw Peter at the movies last night.
I was at the shopping mall and decided I had to buy this sweater. 
Let's see the exhibit at the museum. 

Use 'at' with places on a page:

at the top / bottom of the page

You'll find the page number at the top of the page. 
Make sure to read the notes at the bottom of the page. 

Use 'at' with places within a room or large space:

at the back / front of the class / room / stadium 

I think you'll find him at the front of the class.
They're seated at the back of the bus. 

On

Use 'on' with vertical or horizontal surfaces that you can lay something onto, or attach something to:

on the ceiling / wall / floor / table / etc. 

I left the magazine on that table. 
Isn't that a beautiful painting on the wall?
You have such lovely candles on the mantelpiece. 

Use 'on' with islands:

I stayed on Maui.
Have you seen the volcano on the big island?

Use 'on' with directions:

on the left / on the right / straight on

Take the next turn on the left.
His house is on the right.
Drive straight on to the stop light. 

Important Notes

In / at / on the corner

Say 'in the corner of a room', but 'at the corner (or 'on the corner') of a street':

That's a pretty box in the corner of the room.
I'll get off at the next corner. 

In / at / on the front

in the front / in the back of a car

Can you hand me the sandwich in the front of the car?
My jacket is in the back of the car. 

at the front / back of buildings / groups of people

He's standing at the front of the crowd.
You'll find him at the back of the parking garage.

on the front / back of a piece of paper

Write your name on the front of the test and hand it in.
Make sure to check if there are any questions on the back of the page. 

Now that you have studied the use of on / at / in as a preposition of place, try the follow-up quiz to test your understanding.

Prepositions of Place Quiz

Study other prepositions: