This is the sentence:

He’d miss Japan once he'd arrived in/at/to Hawaii.

A native English Speaker told me that it was in. I found that strange, because I always see "arrived at" and "arrived to," but I rarely see "arrived in."

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    Site note: since Hawaii is an island, it would not be wrong to say "arrived on Hawaii". – Todd Wilcox Jun 1 '18 at 16:51
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    @ToddWilcox That only works if you mean specifically the Big Island; otherwise you'd be arriving on Oahu or Maui or what-have-you. – 1006a Jun 1 '18 at 17:05
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    As a native speaker, I would use "in" if I had to--but otherwise I wouldn't use "arrived" in this way at all, I would use "got to" instead (or "moved to" if he's moving permanently, or "reached"): He'd miss Japan once he got to Hawaii. – user3067860 Jun 1 '18 at 17:10
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    Related question: Where can I use “arrive to”? – ColleenV Jun 1 '18 at 17:39
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    I have most commonly heard "arrive to" from non-native speakers. – phoog Jun 1 '18 at 22:30

We arrive in a country, territory, or large city, e.g. arrive in Canada, arrive in California; we arrive at a smaller place or specific location or point, e.g. arrive at the North Pole, arrive at John's house, arrive at the crossroads; we don't use 'to' after 'arrive'.

Warning: We don’t say arrive to a place

Arrive (Cambridge Dictionary)

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    Michael -- I've done a little digging and I can't find any examples of the usage you suggest. The "meet me at [name of small English town]" usage seems to suggest "meet at the train station" in that town. Can you provide any instances of the usage? – EllieK Jun 1 '18 at 13:04
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    1843 - "We arrived at Bristol about 7 a.m. on Thursday, and went in a cab to Ash ton's Coffee house, in Lower Wine-street." 2018 - Callie said: "We arrived at Bristol at 7.45pm after about 30 minutes in the air. "We were met by four men and women and two porter" 2010s decade - When we arrived at Bristol the air was freezing and we couldn't wait to board our flight to Rome 2017 - When we arrived at Bristol we were faced with more challenges and time wasn't on our side. – Michael Harvey Jun 1 '18 at 13:14
  • 1843 - "We arrived at Bristol about 7 a.m. on Thursday, and went in a cab to Ash ton's Coffee house, in Lower Wine-street." You also say "in Lower Wine-street"? How is in used there? As I would use on? – EllieK Jun 1 '18 at 13:22
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    I'm not sure I'm sold, Michael. Those Bristol references all seem to reference Bristol airport. We would use at for airports as well. It seems that political, geographic entities always use in. Would you say, "We arrived at Lichtenstein"? That's very small. – EllieK Jun 1 '18 at 13:31
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    All your quotes seem to bolster @EllieK's argument, not your own. It seems like "at" is being used, not because of the size of the town, but in the context of travel. 1978 - Washington arrived at New York on 23 April for the ceremony. – J.R. Jun 1 '18 at 21:09

Consider these two examples:

He arrived at the building at 9:00am.

This could simply means the person reached the exterior of the building.

He arrived in the building at 9:00am.

This specifically means the person entered the building at that time. The difference can be important.

Generally, we speak of arriving in a country, not "at". You may say that you arrived at the airport, but not the country itself. I can't really explain why, that is just the accepted norm! But it makes sense that you would use "in" if you are actually in the country, not just at the perimeter of it (as you might say about a building in the examples above).

I would say this is also the norm when speaking about named towns and cities etc, although sometimes (British English at least) names of airports and railway stations are abbreviated to just the name of the town or city they serve, and in those instances you may sometimes hear at used, eg the train arrived at Preston at 11:05, although I wouldn't like to say if this is technically correct.

Finally, we never say "arrive to". "To" expresses motion in a particular direction (eg traveling to Japan) and once you have arrived you are no longer traveling so it simply does not make sense.

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    This is right, but please note that Hawaii is not generally considered a country anymore*; it's a US state. US states follow the same grammatical rules as countries, though, as a rule (you arrive in Hawaii or Ohio if you fly and land in it somewhere; you could perhaps arrive at Hawaii if you went by boat just to a Hawaiian port, or at Ohio if you drove up to the border). (*Of course it was a country before its annexation in 1898, and there continues to be a sovereignty movement within Hawai'i.) – 1006a Jun 1 '18 at 16:03
  • @1006a When talking about borders, you would in fact say "at" not "in." Once you cross the border, you're then "in" the location. "I arrived at the Ohio state line at exactly 10pm, so I couldn't have been in Hawaii at that time" – barbecue Jun 1 '18 at 16:57
  • @barbecue Yes, of course. I meant you could possibly say "I arrived at Ohio" if you meant that you drove up to the state line. It requires a bit of a stretch to come up with a reasonable reason to do/say such a thing, but it's not wrong. Something like "the HMS Wellington arrived at Hawaii in 1826 (much to everyone's regret)" is a bit more plausible. – 1006a Jun 1 '18 at 17:42
  • @1006a one case where you will often see such language is when dealing with tasks that involve jurisdictional issues, such as public works projects or law enforcement. "We arrived at the county line and determined that the cracked sidewalk in question is actually outside city jurisdiction." – barbecue Jun 1 '18 at 17:55
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    Very few things are "never" said in English. The obvious way we say arrive to is when the "to" is used as an infinitive: Fire crews arrived to find the structure in flames. But even with "to" as a preposition, arrive to can be found in news stories and published books. (It may relatively uncommon, but it happens. Sometimes you'll see it when an "at" is further along in the sentence: The celebrity arrived to a warm welcome at the airport.) I've arrived to a place where I try not to use "never" when telling learners what is or isn't said in English – especially in bold print. – J.R. Jun 1 '18 at 18:16

I agree with user3067860 that, in normal conversation, I would probably say that "I got to" a country, town or specific location, rather than "I arrived in" or "I arrived at". I would probably only use the latter two phrases in a formal conversation or report.

That being said, I would say that "I arrived in" a particular country/city/region/town etc, if the exact location within that area was not particularly relevant. However, if I was referring to a specific location (eg an airport, railway station, hotel, convention centre, supermarket, someone's home, etc), I would say "I arrived at...". In this context, I would also agree that you arrive at the border of a country, state, or county. I would probably say that "I arrived at" a very small town or village, or even a reasonably-sized town if it was not my final destination, but merely a marker on the way to somewhere else.

I would rarely say that "I arrived on" a location, unless it was a very small island, or possibly landing by helicopter on a ship (which I have never done).

While agreeing with J.R. that it is possible to have sentences that contain the phrase "I arrived to..",(and J.R. gave some good examples of such), it is important to emphasise that a native English speaker is not likely to say "I arrived to" a particular country, state, town or place.


With “arrive”, the reached destination is preceded by a preposition indicating location, not direction. Each of at, in or on would potentially be correct—it depends on the nature of the destination which is the correct one to use.

As a test, replace “I arrived” with “I am”. The same preposition is used in either case:

I am at the airport. I arrived at the airport.

I am in Dublin. I arrived in Dublin.

Other languages may work differently here: some use the same preposition for location and direction, others pair their equivalent of “arrive” with a direction. “*Arrive to” is typically used by non-native speakers coming from one of these languages.

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