I found thrice as many entries for the version with "in". Is that the correct or at least generally preferred preposition or should I use something else?

Example phrase:

Are you going for 1st place __ the singing contest?

  • Incidentally, "thrice" is often used in modern Indian English, but in British and American English it sounds very old-fashioned. The standard modern BrE and AmE expression is "three times as many entries". (But note that BrE and AmE use "twice as many", not "two times as many".)
    – alephzero
    May 21 '16 at 22:00

This is a case where how many "entries" you find has little to do with correctness. Which preposition you use depends on context and what you are trying to say.

Generally speaking, in regards to at a contest vs. in a contest:

  • at a contest refers to the location of the contest, while
  • in a contest refers to the enrolled contestants.


Is it possible to be in a singing contest AND at the contest?

  • Answer: Of course! In fact, that's what we would generally expect. You need to be at the contest in order to compete in the contest, and, when you're competing in the contest, you will be at the location where the contest is being held (in other words, you're at the contest).

Is it possible to be in a singing contest, but not at the contest?

  • Answer: Not likely; however, if contestants were allowed to submit demo tapes, or sing via Skype, then I suppose it's possible that someone could be in a singing contest without being at that contest.

Is it possible to be at a singing contest, but not in the contest?

  • Answer: Sure; you could be there as an observer, or as a parent, or perhaps even as a judge. (If you were a judge, you would be involved in the contest – but not in the contest.)

As I said, that's generally speaking. (When it comes to prepositions, that's often the best you can do, speak in general terms.) There may be some contexts where these phrases take on a slightly different meaning than what I've describe here.

As for your sentence:

Are you going for 1st place ____ the singing contest?

Either preposition should work fine there, particularly if everyone in the conversation knows what contest this is – which seems to be the case.

  • 1
    Also, if the contest was going to be held tomorrow or next month (not presently), you might be (enrolled as a participant) in the contest, and also not be at the contest (and neither would all the other enrolled participants). May 21 '16 at 23:41

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