I have found the following usage of "on", "at" and "in" on the internet. Is there any other exception and/or rule for that?

Preposition of Place

Use in for

  • Enclosed place: in a room / in a building / in the garden / in a box / in a car / in a taxi / in a helicopter / in a boat / in a lift (elevator)
  • Water: in the water / in the sea / in a river
  • Line & Queue: in a row / in a line / in a queue
  • Countries: in France / in the US / in Iran
  • Cities: In Paris / in New York / in Tehran

Exceptions: in the newspaper / in the sky / in the bed / in the street (= in the middle of the street, standing on it. e.g. Watch out! There is a tire in the road)

Use at for

  • general Places: at the bus-stop / at the door / at the cinema / at the end of the street (for address. e.g. I live at 21st street)
  • Point: at the top (bottom) of the page / at the back (front) of the class / at the corner / at the door / at the entrance / at the front desk

Exceptions: at home / at work / at school / at university / at college / at the top / at the bottom / at the side / at reception

Use on for

  • Surfaces: on the ceiling / on the wall / on the 2nd floor / on the table / on the menu / on a bicycle / on a motorbike / on a horse / on an elephant
  • Small Islands: on Maui
  • Directions: on the left / on the right / straight on the main street

Exceptions: on a bus / on a train / on a plane / on a ship / on the radio / on television / on the way / on the internet / on Facebook / on my weblog / on the street (e.g. Ikea have a big new store on Oxford Street)

No Preposition

  • home / downstairs / downtown / inside / outside / upstairs / uptown

She went upstairs / He comes home / They both are outside

  • 1
    Please edit your question to tell us where the quote comes from. – snailcar Apr 5 '15 at 14:35
  • 1
    Hi Ali! Welcome to ELL.SE! This is much too broad a question for this site. To learn about preposition use in general, you should consult a general grammar or search online. If you have specific questions about a detail, then please ask again. I'm moving to close as overly broad. – Jim Reynolds Apr 5 '15 at 14:57
  • Hi Ali! I think if you post this question as two different questions, one about in/on/at as time prepositions and another as prepositions of place, that would probablt be ok! :-) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 5 '15 at 19:39
  • 1
    I notice that some of the exceptions (and non-exceptions) listed don't sound right to my (AmE) ear: "in Oxford Street" seems like it should be "onOxford Street" unless you're literally out in the middle of the road; "in {Easter,Christmas, Independence} Day" s/b "on {Easter,Christmas, Independence} Day". Also for "on" (under Preposition of Place), four of the so-called Exceptions (bicycle, motorbike, horse, elephant) are NOT exceptions, because one literally sits on these things. – Brian Hitchcock Apr 6 '15 at 1:02
  • 1
    What would you like me to look for when I "take look at these"? Do you think these are better or worse sources than the one you initially cited? Do you want a comparative critique? I think that would be beyond the scope of your question. Probably no one source will list all the possible ways that on or at are used in regard to place or time; sources differ. Note what they agree on. Where they disagree, it means you have some latitude to use your own ear. – Brian Hitchcock Apr 7 '15 at 8:04

It's almost impossible to put all the usages of in/at/on in one place. Some dictionaries list dozens of definitions and usages, and, even then, I'm not sure they've touched on all of them.

The real tricky part can be the idiomatic usages – particularly for on. Consider:

  • He's on fire (maybe he needs to stop, drop, and roll – or it could mean he's made his last six shots from the floor of a basketball court).
  • She's on the phone (she's making a telephone call)
  • She's on hold (she's waiting for someone on the other end to resume the telephone call)
  • He's on the wagon (he's not drinking anymore)
  • She's on the radio, he's on television (this means you can listen to her on the radio, and watch him on television)
  • He was sleeping on the job (means he was napping at work; it can be used figuratively to mean he was not paying attention to something he should have been)
  • She's on deck (it could me she's on the deck of a ship, but it could also mean it's her turn next [borrowed from baseball])
  • She's on the money (she is exactly right)
  • She's in the money (she's either rich, or about to become rich)
  • He's on top of it (he is handling the situation – often implies he is handling it quite well)
  • She is on her way (she is in the process of coming here, right now)
  • This is on me (this is for you, but I'm paying for it)

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list; this is just meant to show you that, insofar as your list goes, you're only at the beginning. You've got a long way to go before this is fully in the bag.

  • 1
    I get that these uses are idiomatic, but I also say that they don't really fall under the category prepositions of place. – user6951 Apr 8 '15 at 17:12
  • @δοῦλος - The original question didn't ask about prepositions of place only. Instead, it was divided into two parts: prepositions of place, and prepositions of time. It began by asking, "I have found the following usage of 'on', 'at' and 'in' on the internet. Is there any other exception and/or rule for that?" I wasn't 100% sure, but it seemed like the O.P. might have been asking, "Now that I have these usages (place and time) nailed down, do I have the complete picture?" My answer here was meant to address that question. – J.R. Apr 8 '15 at 17:39

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