AT, ON, or IN? The Triangle Method for Prepositions of Place



I'm Rebecca from

In this important lesson I'm going to show you how to use three very common prepositions

correctly in English, and they are: "at", "on", and "in".

Now, you might have seen an earlier lesson of mine where I talked about "at", "on", and

"in" when it had to do with time, and we used something called "the triangle method".

But here, also, we're going to use this triangle method to learn "at", "on", and "in", but

we're going to refer to places.


To place; not time, but place.

So, let's see how it works.

So, here we have the triangle, and you can see "at" at the top, "on" in the middle, and

"in" at the bottom.


So what does that mean?

So, here we want to show that "at" is used when we're talking about very specific places.


For example, when we're talking about the name of a restaurant: "at Starbucks", "at

McDonald's", and so on.

Or when we're giving a specific address: "at 25 Main Street".


So, you have the number; not only the street, not only the city, but the specific number

of the building and the street - "at 25 Main Street".

Or we say a specific place, like: "at JFK Airport".

And even if it's not with a name, it could just say: "at the airport", "at the office".


"At the library", "at the supermarket".

You see that it's very specific, and that's why we use "at"; in those very specific situations.

All right?

Got that?

Now let's look at the second one.

So, the second one is "on".

"on" we use for a little bit more than a very specific place; it's a little bit wider.

For example, we see here on a street, or a highway, or a floor.


So, we see: "on Main Street", "on Route 66", "on the 6th floor".


So: "Somebody lives on Main Street.", "I drive to work on Route 66.", "I work on the 6th



So we see that it's a little bit wider than that specific place.

Little bit wider tends to often be horizontal kind of places.


Next we come to "in".

So, this is for everything more.


So, "in" is used for large areas.

For example, we say: "in Los Angeles".

Well, let's look first at what the categories are.

So, large areas, such as a city, a state, a country, a continent, or just a large area.

For example, we could say: "He lives in Los Angeles.", "She lives in California.", "They

live in the US.", "in North America", "in the world".


So, what do we see here?

That "in" is the broadest; it's the widest.


And then "on" is a little bit less, and "at" is very specific.


So, have you got that?

Let's find out when we do a little quiz where we're going to practice using these very common

prepositions: "at", "on", and "in".


Because we use these all the time; we use them in writing, we use them in speaking - and

if you have a mistake in this then you're going to have lots of mistakes.

So, let's get it right and let's practice with a little quiz.

Okay, so before we get started, let me just tell you that there are two ways that you

could do this with me.

One is if you'd like a little more time to think about the answer, then just pause the

video, and you can see all of the exercises.

So, stop it, write down the answers, think about it, and then you can follow me as I

go through it.

Or if you feel you can do it right away, then join me right now.


Let's get started.

So, again, your options are what? "at" for something very specific, "on" for something

a little bit wider, and "in" for the largest areas of all.


All right.

So, let's begin.

Number one: "_____ Tokyo".

What do we say there?



It should be "in Tokyo".



Because Tokyo is a city, and it's a large place, so we said that for large places we

use "in".

All right?

Next: "_____ Hill Road.

_____ Hill Road.

I live _____ Hill Road."

What would you say, there?

Which of these?

Okay, good: "I live on Hill Road."


So, we said "at" is the specific one; "on" is for things like also the horizontal kind

of places like roads, and streets, and rivers.


The places like that; the floor that you live on.


We say "on", "on Hill Road".

Number three: "_____ Brazil.

She lives _____ Brazil."

What would you choose for that one?

"She lives"-yes-"in Brazil".


Again, Brazil is very wide.


It's a big place, so we want the widest option, which is "in".

All right? "in Brazil".

"in" for cities, countries-remember?-continents, large areas of land, or also in the world.

All right?

Number four: "_____ 40 Park Avenue.

They live _____ 40 Park Avenue."

What's that one?

Which of these?


So, that's...

Is that specific or is it wide?

"40 Park Avenue" sounds very specific to me.


So, if it's specific then you would say what? "at".


"They live at 40 Park Avenue."

Very good.

All right.

Now let's look at some sentences.

"We're staying _____ the Moon Hotel."

What should it be?

Think about it in terms of how specific it is.

And in this case it's, again, very specific, so we say: "We're staying at the Moon Hotel."



Next: "He works _____ Burger King _____ Bay Street."

Yes, it happens that very often in the same sentence we have more than one preposition.


But the same rules apply.

You can still use this triangle method to help you figure out the answer.

So, let's take it step by step: "He works _____ Burger King", right?

So, is that a specific place, or something very large, or something medium size?

It's a specific place, so here we would say: "He works at Burger King", and then we have

"Bay Street".


So, what do you think that would be?

That's going to be this one.

Right? "on Bay Street".


"He works at Burger King on Bay Street."

All right.

Next, number seven: "She lives _____ 265 Queen Street _____ London."

Once again we have more than one preposition.

What would it be?

"She lives", yes, right.

You're right; I heard you.

"She lives at" - very specific.

"at 265 Queen Street", and then "London", okay?

So, this is a city, so we want to say: "in London".

All right?

So, how did you do on those?

Did you get them all right?

If you did, congratulations; if you had to think a little bit or you got some of them

wrong, that's no problem.

Prepositions are confusing at times, but at least you have now some sort of guidelines

to help you.

They're confusing just because in different languages prepositions are used very differently.

So, you're not alone.


There are lots of people who are thinking about which prepositions to use in English.

And this triangle method can help you to figure out at least some of those answers rather



Now, I still want to say that even when we're talking about place, though: "at", "on", and

"in" sometimes are not used exactly in the ways that I've explained here, but this triangle

method does help for lots of different places.

All right?

So, for example, if you look in a grammar book you'll often see...

A good grammar book.

You'll see not one lesson about "at", "on", and "in" for place, but you'll see several

chapters about "at", "on", and "in" for place.

This will cover definitely one or two of those chapters.


But if you really want to make sure that you've understood this and you're getting it right,

what are the things you can do?

First go to my... go to our website, okay?

At; there you can do a quiz on this.


And don't forget to use it.


Use this in speech, use it in writing.

And every time you're writing this week, think about: "Do I want to say 'at', 'on', and 'in'?



Think of the reason until it starts to feel automatic.


And don't forget to subscribe, and that way you'll have access to lots of other lessons

which I think will help you to learn English faster and hopefully a little more successfully.

And don't forget, if you didn't watch the other lesson on "at", "on", and "in" for time,

which is also really confusing and also very commonly used, then check that out.

And if you've watched it, watch it again; make sure that you've actually understood

it and you're still using it correctly.


So, thanks very much for watching.

I wish you all the best, especially with these lovely prepositions.


Have a good time with your English.

Bye for now.

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