Prepositions are used to show relationships between objects, people, and places. The prepositions ‘in’, ‘on’ and ‘at’ are often used to express these relationships. Here are explanations of when to use each each preposition with example sentences to help you understand.
Use ‘in’ with indoor and outdoor spaces.
in a room / in a building
in a garden / in a park
I have two TVs in my house.
They live in that building over there.
Use ‘in’ with bodies of water:
in the water
in the sea
in a river
I like swimming in lakes when the weather is hot.
You can catch fish in the river.
Use ‘in’ with lines:
in a row / in a line
in a queue
Let’s stand in line and get a ticket to the concert.
We had to wait in a queue to get into the bank.
Use ‘in’ with cities, counties, states, regions and countries:
Peter lives in Chicago.
Helen is in France this month. Next month she’ll be in Germany.
Use ‘at’ with places:
at the bus-stop
at the door
at the cinema
at the end of the street
I’ll meet you at the movie theater at six o’clock.
He lives in the house at the end of the street.
Use ‘at’ with places on a page:
The name of the chapter is at the top of the page.
The page number can be found at the bottom of the page.
Use ‘at’ in groups of people:
at the back of the class
at the front of the class
Tim sits at the back of the class.
Please come and sit down at the front of the class.
Use ‘on’ with surfaces:
on the ceiling / on the wall / on the floor
on the table
I put the magazine on the table.
That’s a beautiful painting on the wall.
Use ‘on’ with small islands:
I stayed on Maui last year. It was great!
We visited friends who live on an island in the Bahamas.
Use ‘on’ with directions:
on the left
on the right
Take the first street on the left and continue to the end of the road.
Drive straight on until you come to a gate.
In / at / on the corner
We say ‘in the corner of a room’, but ‘at the corner (or ‘on the corner’) of a street’.
I put the chair in the corner of the bedroom of the house on the corner of 52nd Street.
I live at the corner of 2nd Avenue.
In / at / on the front
We say ‘in the front / in the back’ of a car
I get to sit in the front Dad!
You can lay down and sleep in the back of the car.
We say ‘at the front / at the back’ of buildings / groups of people
The entrance door is at the front of the building.
We say ‘on the front / on the back’ of a piece of paper
Write your name on the front of the paper.
You’ll find the grade on the back of the page.
Use ‘into’ to express movement from one area into another:
I drove into the garage and parked the car.
Peter walked into the living room and turned on the TV.
Use ‘onto’ to show that someone puts something onto a surface.
He put the magazines onto the table.
Alice put the plates onto the shelf in the cupboard.
Use ‘out of’ when moving something towards you or when leaving a room:
I took the clothes out of the washer.
He drove out of the garage.