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I asked a few times about the use of prepositions with the word "cemetery"

in the cemetery is the correct form but every time I see the sentence like this I'm confused. ""My friends and I had a chance to watch an execution carried out at the Jewish cemetery " Why is there an "at" instead of "in" ?

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  • Not an answer, but "we had a chance to watch something" sounds like it is a positive thing that you could do that - however, watching an execution being carried out is not widely regarded as a sought-after pass-time.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 9:16
  • For places, buildings, this has been discussed many times here. To cut to the chase, if you want to emphasize 'physical presence', use 'at' as in I'm at school. The preposition 'in' would refer to you doing something 'in' it. That said, it may show the 'purpose' as well. So, you as a father could be 'at school' but your kid is 'in school!' And above all, there's some BrE-AmE debate. One uses 'in' the other uses 'at'. And, that's it! :)
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 9:27
  • @oerkelens Apparently, They had that oportunity because they were hiding in the bushes and watching the execution being carried out. If they had been cought up by the executors this testimony would have never seen the light of a day. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 9:34
  • I would think the main distinction would be whether they were inside something or not. You're usually not inside a cemetery, as it's usually not enclosed. Therefore you would use 'at'. @MaulikV Do you have some links to other places where this has been discussed?
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 1:19
  • Obligatory NGram link
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 9:51

2 Answers 2

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There isn't a single definitive idiom for this situation. You can use whichever one you prefer. I tend to say "in the cemetery", but others almost certainly say "at the cemetery". Fortunately, for most of us, the situation doesn't come up often enough to justify establishing an authoritative idiom to describe it.

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  • Who said a cemetery is an open area? In Eastern Europe all cemeteries are enclosed. I've never seen an open cemetery, Only in American movies. -_- Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 11:21
  • @JustynaNogala - I don't know, who did say that cemeteries are open areas? Certainly not me. Read my answer. I never said anything about open areas. Maybe you have confused my answer with rogermue's answer?
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 11:23
  • @JustynaNogala - Even if the cemetary is enclosed, either preposition could be used. In the enclosed situation, in would imply you are inside the cemetary, at would indicate where you are in the city: I'm not at the bus stop, I'm at the cemetary. No wonder you can't find me.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 8:51
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You say "in" when you have the concept of room/space. Room can be closed as the rooms of a house or open, e.g. an area as a garden, a park, a cemetery, areas that are fenced off.

You say "at" when you have the concept of point. Language can reduce the dimension, and areas as a cemetery can be reduced to a point when seen from a far distance.

So you can say "in the cemetary" when you are in it or when you have the concept of area. And you can say "at the cemetery" when you have the concept of a place like a point in the far distance.

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