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If someone asked you where you bought something, you could say,

I got it at Walmart.

but what if instead of referring to a store you were referring to a city?

Would you say,

I got it at Chicago.


I got it in Chicago.

Somehow when referring to a city, using "in" instead of "at" seems more appropriate. Am I right? Why is that?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Walmart and Chicago are both places, but we use different prepositions to refer to them. From this article on them:

Prepositions of Place: at, on, and in

We use at for specific addresses. Grammar English lives at 55 Boretz Road in Durham.

We use on to designate names of streets, avenues, etc. Her house is on Boretz Road.

And we use in for the names of land-areas (towns, counties, states, countries, and continents).

She lives in Durham.

Durham is in Windham County.

Windham County is in Connecticut.

Because Walmart is a specific place or address, we say that someone shops at Walmart. However, since Chicago is a land-area, we say that someone shops in Chicago.

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love this answer Clears up alot for me. +1 – Thursagen Aug 5 '11 at 1:13
IMHO, many Walmarts these days are so big that you could say "in". Still, it would sound a little weird, unless you are trying to imply that "it" is something unrelated to Walmart itself (eg: a disease). – T.E.D. Aug 5 '11 at 15:48
+1 Enlightened! – Daniel Sep 10 '11 at 11:44

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