Could you clarify to me the difference between using prepositions at and in in such sentences (they are taken from some website, so they might be incorrect):

I arrived at Chicago on Monday.
I've never been in Denver before.

Thank you for your help!

Found this question. Is the explanation from it by Colin Fine applicable in my case?

Both are equally correct, and have nearly the same meaning. In would mean physically within the bounds of the park, while at is slightly less precise, because she might be inside the park, or perhaps just outside the gates.

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    As you say, Colin Fine explains and illustrates the differences. However, you wouldn't say at Chicago or any other city. You go to Chicago and arrive in Chicago. Equally, unless you mean into the centre of Denver, you would say I've never been to Denver before. Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 9:59
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    @RonaldSole Presumably you mean "Equally, unless you mean into the centre of Denver, you would say I've never been in Denver before."?
    – SteveES
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 10:04
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    @SteveES I'll try again. If someone wants to know whether you have visited a city, the question would be: Have you been to.... and the answer would be: I have/haven't been to.... . It's only if the questioner wanted to know whether you had visited the central area that s/he would ask: Have you been in....? So, if you had only landed at London City airport, you might have been to London but you wouldn't have been in London. Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 10:17
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    "Arrived at Chicago" is OK. at refers to a point in a journey, an intermediate or final destination. google.com/…
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 11:04

2 Answers 2


I think most native speakers would almost always use in rather than at when it comes to cities and travel:

I arrived in Chicago on Monday.

One exception might be when you are talking about one particular location, such as the airport:

I arrived at Chicago around ten o'clock, and almost missed my connecting flight.

In that case, though, the speaker is referring to the Chicago airport, more so than the city itself, so at can work in that context.

The confusion between at and in seems to be rather common for learners. The guidance you found in our famous "at the park" question should help, but it's unlikely to cover all situations and exceptions.


At is used with points. When you say you are at a place, you are saying they could find you by looking at that point on a map. Of course knowing where something is on a map doesn't give you a lot of precise details, so you need to use in, etc. if you want to communicate location more precisely.

In is used with areas/volumes with borders, and when you are in a city you're saying its borders surround you. Of course when you say in {city} you are being just about as precise as if you are saying at {city}.

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