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Grammar - Alle Präpositionen am richtigen Ort

Schlagwörter: Präpositionen, Englisch, English, OWAD, Business, Grammar


Because of the similarity of the English prepositions in, at and on with their German counterparts, it can sometimes be difficult to know which word to use in which context.

Fortunately, there is a reliable rhyme and reason behind the usage of prepositions of place in English. Correctly understanding a few simple rules will help you use the right preposition in the right context almost every time.

Where is it?

The usage of prepositions of place in English is governed by rules of geometry and spatial relationship. This means that the correct preposition to use has to do with where a specific object is in relationship to the “container” (building, open area, city, etc.) being discussed. There are three possible relationships:

Usage

Point > at

In each of these examples, the object is located at a point in geometry:

I am at my desk. I am at the airport. I am at the office. Our office is located at the address below. Our executive management team is at the tradeshow.

Sometimes a location is very large or contains multiple units. In this case, the entire location is usually regarded as a point. At is thus also used for events like concerts, football games, etc.

Surface > on

In each of these examples, the object is located on a surface:

The printer is on my desk. Management put a cap on our discretionary spending budget. Our CEO is skating on thin ice. The screensaver made a pattern on my screen.

Containment > in

In each of these examples, the object is located within a container, or is contained by walls, a fence or even a figurative boundary:

I am in my office.
I am in the hotel lobby.
There are five cubicles in my department’s office space.
He is an expert in the field of computer engineering.


Visualise the meaning

Sometimes more than one of these might seem right to you in the same sentence. It could also be that more than one is right, depending on what you wish to communicate. Consider these examples:

I am at the office means that you are located where your business has its place of operation. You are where all the offices are. A point.

I am in the office, on the other hand, means that you are enclosed within a specific office. To make this statement even more specific, you might state which office: I am in my manager’s office.

In these examples, at specifically communicates that you are talking about a place. In specifically communicates that you are enclosed within a container. When it is important to state that you are inside a container, in must be used. Otherwise, at is normally used.

I am at the cinema states where you are located. You are at a place. I am in the cinema states that you are inside it, which is normally not important. If it’s important to be this specific, you’d say: I’m in cinema number 3 and not I’m at cinema number 3.

Similarly, you would say I am at the tradeshow rather than I am in the tradeshow. Further, you would say I am at our tradeshow booth when it is important to communicate place, and I am in the tradeshowbooth when it is important to communicate the fact that you are inside the booth.

Exceptions

When discussing vehicles, the following prepositions are used:

I am in the car.
I am on the bus/train/plane/ship.


Here are a few other exceptions:

Jane is in bed means she is staying there for a while. Jane may also be sitting or lying on the bed. Maurice is in hospital means he is staying there for awhile. Maurice may also be at the hospital if he is visiting someone. I work for the biggest company in the world. Our main office is on the East Coast. I live in Northern Germany. We publish all of our press releases in the newspaper. You can see it in this picture. There’s an atrium in the middle of our building. I’ll be working at home today. My office is on the ground floor. I’ll pick up my laptop from the dealer on the way to the office tomorrow.

Schlagwörter: Präpositionen, Englisch, English, OWAD, Business, Grammar

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