How to Avoid Confusion of Using Prepositions ‘At’, ‘On’, and ‘In’ in a Sentence


Using prepositions in a sentence can cause lots of headaches, especially ‘At’, ‘On’, and ‘In’. Each relates to the information about time, location, and direction. If you are not a native English speaker, this may be quite confusing at times. In fact, different prepositions when used with the same words change the meaning of a sentence.

In this lesson, I am going to provide you with some simple tricks to use these very common but useful prepositions. It is important that you also learn the pattern of using these three prepositions.

Let us start with “In”. We will cover “At” and “On” separately in the next sessions and then share a comparison table. The scenarios and examples below are common and indicative ones, not explicit.

Area of use/ ScenarioExamples
Weeks, months, seasons, years, decades, centuries, long periodsin the 3rd week of January, in August, in summer, in 2020, in the 1900s, in a few days, in the Stone Ages  
As a group of words and expressionsin the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, in the past, in the future, in five minutes, in a few minutes  
Being or within something, inside the edges of something, inside places surrounding a person or objects  In the water, in the desk, in the lake, in the team, in the mountains
Containers or enclosed spacesmobile in my pocket, music in the car, seats in the bus, in the library, in the theatre  
Building and roomsin the room, in my office, in an apartment  
Location, place, areas, regions, citiesin a hotel, in a park, in India, in Dusseldorf, in the city, in the country  
Shapes, color and sizein red, in a circle, in five different sizes
LiquidsSugar in soft drinks, milk in your tea, coffee in my cup, water bottle in the fridge  
With group of people or surrounded by people   Exception: member of high level groupsin the people, in the marketing team, in the soccer team, in the house of parliament,
Exception for high level groups: on the board, on the committee
Indicating belief, interest, opinion, feelingin the next life, not interested in poker, strong belief in humanity, in despair, express in better ways, believe in hardworking  
Expression of doing something or actionin preparing the report, in buying from the super market

Stay tuned! In the next posts of this series, I will cover the use of preposition “At” and “On”.

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