In vs. At

I got a question today from the Peanut Gallery.

Mostafa in Oman asks:

What is the difference between saying:

•       It is in Oman

and

•       It is at Oman?”

Those pesky little prepositions with definitions a mile long in the dictionary!
To answer your question, Mostafa, we’ll need to use a little geometry.

Rule of Thumb:  If it’s a point, use “at;” if it’s an area, use “in.”

So for Oman, since it is a whole country that covers a large area, you would say: “It is in Oman.”

Examples of Points in Location and Time (use “at”):

We set the casing at 2,956 ft at 2:30 a.m.

I’ll meet you at the bank at noon.

Examples of Areas in Location and Time (use “in”):

The casing will arrive in Terrebonne Parish in the morning.

I arrived in Houston (big city, 656 sq miles) in the sweltering summer of 1980.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, including the expression “at night.”

And you could miss somebody entirely if you say “at the bank” instead of “in the bank,” because he will wait outside the front door after you have already gone in to sit down in the air conditioning.

Here’s another pesky preposition question:

Is a certain restaurant located at Main Street, on Main Street, or in Main Street?

Generally, one will use “at” when referring to crossroads, which follows the geometry rule of thumb, because the intersection of two lines is a point.

Example:

The office is located at Main Street and Elm.

It seems the Brits refer to addresses as being in Main Street, whereas Americans prefer on Main Street.

Example:

Do you know the muffin man who lives in Drury Lane? (British children’s song, 1820)

I prefer addresses being on a certain street, whereas the vehicles are in the street.

In other words, the muffin man would live on Drury Lane, but his MuffinMobile might be in Drury Lane.
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Profound Quote of the Day:

“There’s less critical thinking going on in this country on a Main Street level – forget about the media – than ever before. We’ve never needed people to think more critically than now, and they’ve taken a big nap.”

– Alec Baldwin, American actor, b. 1958

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