Consider the following sentence:

I have always tried to excel in/at courses relevant to veterinary sciences, such as physics, biology and chemistry.

Which one is correct? A quick google search yielded no definite answers (it said both could be used, however, it seems to me some sources implied that they cannot always be used interchangeably).


I think I would use in when talking about a broad field and at when talking about a specific skill.

I have always tried to excel in courses relevant to veterinary sciences

I have always excelled at diagnosing cancer in small animals

I excel in laboratory environments

I excel at using the mass spectrometer

I'm not sure if its wrong to use at/in interchangeably but using them like this ^ is what comes naturally to me as a Brit.

| improve this answer | |
  • I think this might be correct. I for example have read 'excel in mathematics' and 'excel at outdoor sports'. Outdoor sports is more specific than mathematics. So I'd say it would also be 'excel IN sports'. Correct? – FlacchusMaximus Apr 1 '13 at 10:42
  • 1
    @FlacchusMaximus: It's more that you tend to excel in a field of endeavour, and to excel at a specific activity. But this is only a vague tendency, and in practice we nearly always use in, so my advice would be to just go with the majority and forget about at completely. No-one is ever likely to find fault with your choice of preposition, since any supposed distinction is just a tendency, not a rule of grammar. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 1 '13 at 17:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.