I myself normally use at in a sentence such as "I want to study at the Stanford University."

But when I saw someone wrote "I want to go to study in the Stanford University," though sounded a little odd, I didn't feel that it's absolutely wrong. Then again, I'm not very sure.

Can we use either, or should we always use "at", or always use "in"?

PS. A closely related phrase, but I expected that the answer would be the same, is "continue my study/education at" or "continue my study/education in"?

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    "to study at a University" is idiomatic English. Prepositions are tricky in all languages (or their alternatives such as post positions and cases). While "study in" makes just as much literal/logical sense, in cases such as this you should always choose an idiomatically correct preposition over a merely literally/logically correct one. – hippietrail Nov 27 '13 at 9:28
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    I would be wary of saying "always" when it comes to those little imps we call prepositions. Consider: I want to study in the Oxford library – I realize that's completely different, but it's an example of why I'd prefer to say something more like "the standard way to say it is at," instead of "you should always use at". – J.R. Nov 27 '13 at 10:16
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    Side note: We do not use "the" with proper nouns like "Stanford University". You "study at Stanford University", not "at THE Stanford University". – Jay Nov 27 '13 at 16:37
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    Thank you. I sometimes confuse myself with the usage of "the University of X" and "Y University" indeed. – Damkerng T. Nov 27 '13 at 16:42
  • books.google.com/ngrams/… – Khan Feb 6 '17 at 6:43
up vote 16 down vote accepted

In Standard English we use at with study when stating the University name:

I studied psychology at Cambridge University

I want to study at Imperial College University, London.

Use of in is not Standard English, even to the point where the ngram of studied at MIT versus studied in MIT does not even show in because it is so non-standard.

My guess is that whoever wrote that quote was not a native speaker of English.

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    Of course, she is not a native English speaker. :) – Damkerng T. Nov 27 '13 at 9:02
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    The definite article, the, in "the Stanford University" is also a give away. – Mari-Lou A Nov 27 '13 at 12:39
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    If you say study in, you mean literally studying inside the building. So you couldn't say I studied in MIT but you could say I studied in X building at MIT. – LawrenceC Nov 4 '15 at 3:00
  • @Matt great usage of ngram, never even heard about the tool. – T.Chmelevskij Jan 6 '17 at 8:46

Ditto Matt. Let me add:

In general, we use "in" for cities, states/provinces, and countries. "I live IN Michigan." "Michigan is IN the United States." We also use "in" for buildings. "I left the book IN the library." We use "at" for organizations. "I eat AT Sally's Diner." "Scientists AT Muppet Labs are working on this problem."

Vehicles are curiously tricky. You ride IN a car, but ON a bus or airplane. (I heard a comedy act once where the guy made jokes about how he wants to get IN the plane -- let a daredevil ride ON the plane.) You get IN a canoe or rowboat but ON a cruise ship. (Which I always thought was rather backwards, as a rowboat doesn't really have an "inside" but a cruise ship definitely does.)

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    Just a quick recap on airplane. I normally use I got on the plane, and I'm on board, but I sit in the plane, and I am in the plane. Do I use them correctly? – Damkerng T. Nov 27 '13 at 16:55
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    We normally say "I am on the plane" or "I am sitting on the plane". I don't think anyway would have trouble understanding you or make fun of you for saying "I am in the plane", but it's not the common phrasing. – Jay Nov 27 '13 at 18:15
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    As far as on/in for vehicles go, we tend to be on vehicles when there is a boarding process (hence: on the ship, on the train, on the bus, on the plane) but in when there is not (in the canoe, in the taxi, in the liferaft). That said, it goes back to on when we sit or stand atop the vehicle (on the bicycle, on the surfboard). – J.R. Nov 27 '13 at 21:12

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