I saw your mom in the hospital.
I saw your mom at the hospital.
What is different in these two sentences? Do two prepositions make significant difference?
'In' implies that the person was a patient at the hospital, whilst 'at' is more likely to be used when the person was just on the premises and not a patient, although you would probably use 'at' if you had a appointment at the hospital but were not admitted.
E.g. "Where are you?" " I'm in hospital' (I'm sick/injured and in a hospital bed) compared to "I'm at the hospital" (I'm visiting someone or being seen by the doctor). In the UK, we also tend to say "in hospital" or "at the hospital". "in hospital" can be taken as a personal status, rather than just a statement of location.
I like Steve's answer; it's probably the first distinction that comes to mind for most native speakers.
However, you've given us two very vague sentences. We can provide a little additional context and analyze the question even further.
Let's say my mom is a nurse, and you had a chance meeting with her in the hallway of the hospital where she works. (Let's assume you were there to drop off a payment in their business office.) In that case, you could use either one:
Let's say my mother is a florist, and she supplies flowers for the hospital gift shop. She was walking back to her delivery van, and you saw her in the parking lot as you were walking in. In that case, you'd probably say:
because you were not in the building when you saw here, merely on the hospital grounds.
Let's say my mom is an EMT who frequently goes on ambulance calls. You saw her getting out of the ambulance at the emergency room entrance. Most likely, you would tell me:
because you were outside the building when you saw her. But let's say you didn't see her getting out of the ambulance; instead, you saw her rolling a gurney down the hallway. In that case, you could use either one:
You might use in because you were inside the hospital building when you saw her; you might also you at because you were also on the hospital grounds when you saw her, and in sometimes conveys the meaning of being a patient, so you might avoid that, and opt to use at instead, perhaps like this:
I am half Russian half English, live in Yorkshire currently. I would say "at the hospital" if I, for instance, visited my grandma there-I was at the hospital to visit my grandmother. In the hospital, however, sounds to me as if I am a patient so if I say: I can't meet you mate, I'm in the hospital right now, my hypothetical mate will know that something has happened to me. This is just how I prefer to deal with the "at vs in" thing. P.S As you may have noticed my English is kind of weird, Russian side explains it well lol, Cheers
In vs At.
Both are used to mention places but the difference is whether you are inside the place or outside or nearer to that place.
In American, Saying in The hospital to us, implies they are a patient. Same with being on vacation meaning you are on vacation, rather than saying on holiday. A holiday to America means the time in which it's a holiday where you don't go anywhere. At and In the hospital has many implications. Where are you? I'm at the hospital ( meaning either to see someone or be seen as a patient.)