Out of all the grammar questions that students ask me at Eh Plus, In / On / At is probably one of the most common. Even our very advanced students sometimes have problems with these prepositions.
In + X
“X” can be replaced with a city, neighbourhood, or area. Any proper noun. But not “In downtown”, because “downtown” is not a proper noun.
- Example: I live in Burnaby, but I work in Kitsilano.
- Example: I’m looking for a hotel in Portland. Do you know any good ones?
- Example: My friends are going to a party in Richmond tonight, but I live in North Vancouver. How can I get there?
- Example: How long have you been in Canada?
On + X
“X” is most commonly replaced with a street name.
- Example: I have to go to a store on Robson Street in Vancouver. How do I get there?
- Example: There’s a new pub that just opened on Fraser St. Want to go with me tonight?
- Example: I’m staying at an Air BnB in Victoria on Cook Street.
- Example: You live on Main Street? Me too!
At + X
“X” can be any specific place, but is most commonly an intersection (where two streets cross), or a business name.
- Example: I live in East Van, at Commercial and 1st.
- Example: Have you been to that tiny cafe at Hastings and Cambie? They have the best coffee!
- Example: I’m at Eh Plus right now, want to hang out later?
- Example: On Boxing Day many people were at Pacific Centre to find some good deals.
Tip: “In” is for very big places (country, province, city), “On” is for medium size places like streets and roads, and “At” is for very small places, like exact addresses or very specific locations.