In what cases it is correct to say "in the school"? Are there any situations, in which that combination of words placed in the end of a sentence would be correct?

  • 2
    It might be better if you came up with the cases you think it might be OK to use it in and asked us to let you know if they're correct. Otherwise, you're asking us to make a list and lists are very difficult to make complete. – Catija Mar 28 '15 at 6:50
  • The phrase "in the school" can mean "inside the school [buildiing]." Last week there was a flood. There was a lot of damage in the fire station, but not much damage at all in the school. – J.R. Mar 28 '15 at 9:46
  • @J.R. - Thanks for your example. Can you, please, provide some explanation for it that you think is right. Is it like when I talk about some "human-driven" activity (party, contest, competition, lesson, meeting, etc.) than I should say "at the school", but if it's some weather phenomenon than it should be "in the school"? – brilliant Mar 28 '15 at 10:08

You can say

...in the school

when talking about something that happened, happens, is happening, will happen, or could happen, etc. inside the school.

There are 44 students and 6 teachers in the school.

I left my book in the school.

Tonight's dance will be in the school.

No strangers have been spotted in the school.

We don't like the food at the cafeteria in the school.

The flood damaged a lot of walls in the school.

An ant fell in love with another ant and had 6000 baby ants, and they now all live in the school.

Scientists think traces of radiation from the damage last year to the nearby nuclear plant can be found in the school.

  • Wait a moment, but would "at the school" not be okay in your examples also meaning "inside the school"? – brilliant Mar 28 '15 at 12:00
  • No, because the conception that the speaker has of the location is different. At refers to a place as a point. In refers to a place as something that contains things, or that one can be inside. See my answer about in, at, and on. At does not tell us that someone is inside the school, only that they are at the location of the school; they could be inside or outside (in the parking lot for example). – user6951 Mar 28 '15 at 12:10
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    Also, there is a difference between at school and at the school. The former means you are there for its intended function: for teachers to educate students; the latter means you are there for some other purpose, such as to clean the carpets or something. A student or teacher would say they are at school. A carpet cleaner would say he is at the school, because he is not there as a student or teacher. A parent picking up a student would probably say they are at [student's] school. – user6951 Mar 28 '15 at 12:17
  • At is more useful when you are talking about the location of the school itself, or giving directions. "I'll go get your backpack for you, where did you leave it?" "Thanks, I left it at the school, in room 103." Or a similar sentence, "where is the dance tonight?" "it's at the school." – James Mar 28 '15 at 16:26
  • Also, "in school" is idiomatic. "Stay in school kids" doesn't mean go to school and stay there forever. It means keep going to school, keep learning, don't break the rules. Or even more generally, it means behave. – James Mar 28 '15 at 16:30

In school vs in the school.

When you talk about activities other than school actvities, you use the phrase "in the school". Otherwise, you use "in school" about school/educational activities. look at the following sentences to distinguish between these phrases:

My kids are still in/at school.

Some visitors are in the school.

There is a canteen in the school.

The carpenter is repairing chairs in the school.


Not really, 'in the school' is perhaps more common American English while 'at school' is more British but both are equally 'correct'. Similarly an American would probably say 'in college' while a Brit would say 'at university'.

In tends to be used for institutions, so your are 'in hospital' or rather than 'at hospital' but 'at home' not 'in home' - although you might be put 'in a home'

It's just one of those things!

there is perhaps a slight subtle difference that 'in school' means they attend school - as opposed to having finished school, while 'at school' means they are there now. So "are your children in school" = are they under 16 or 18 ? But "are your children at school" = are they at school today or are they at home. (but that's from a BE perspective)

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