I've seen belong+to many times but I've read recently belong at in text below:

Someone like me did not belong at Cambridge.

Could you please tell me what the meaning of "belong at" is?

The full text is here:

A FEW WEEKS AFTER CHRISTMAS, the University of Cambridge wrote to Dr. Kerry, rejecting my application. “The competition was very steep,” Dr. Kerry told me when I visited his office. I thanked him and stood to go. “One moment,” he said. “Cambridge instructed me to write if I felt there were any gross injustices.” I didn’t understand, so he repeated himself. “I could only help one student,” he said. “They have offered you a place, if you want it.” It seemed impossible that I would really be allowed to go. Then I realized that I would need a passport, and that without a real birth certificate, I was unlikely to get one. Someone like me did not belong at Cambridge. It was as if the universe understood this and was trying to prevent the blasphemy of my going.

  • 2
    to belong at a place (here, a university) means: to be at a place that is the right place for you. Usually, without at: I really belong here or there. BUT: to be at university or school, so it's OK here to say: belong at Cambridge. That woman's story is SO amazing. to belong at school, at university, at a place of work, at a location. But a geographical place: in a city or town or country.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 15:31

1 Answer 1


Belong X can mean "to be a member or part of X" but it can also mean "harmonizes with existing people/things" - usually based on appearance or other observable attribute.

With the second meaning, the X in "belong X" might be a place, and at or other spatial preposition would be used.

These files don't look like they belong in this box (files are different type)

This car doesn't belong at the scrapyard, it still works.

  • 1
    Well said. And we all belong in the loony bin. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 15:33

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