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What is the difference between at a hotel and in a hotel? The NYTimes seems to be using both of them. I looked up the ngram on google and it seems in a hotel is used more often than at a hotel, which is kind of surprising to me. enter image description here

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I think that analysis is flawed. You should have also included the verb in the search, because those matches could just be part of different phrasal verbs, and you would be then just counting what phrasal verb is the most used, and not for a given fixed verb, which preposition is mostly used. stayed in a hotel vs stayed at a hotel would be a much meaningful analysis IMO. –  Eduardo Jan 28 '12 at 7:01

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I think in a hotel is more specific. It means being inside the hotel. When you use at the hotel it can be both inside our outside.

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For many uses, that's the case. Example where that's not the case would be "stayed in/at a hotel" or "convention was held in/at a hotel". –  David Schwartz Jan 29 '12 at 8:36
    
Yes, I agree that "in" is more specific. –  user43027 Apr 23 '13 at 1:18

In a comment responding to the original post, Eduardo advises the poster to add a verb in front of the phrases "at a hotel" and "in a hotel" to more nearly balanced idea of which phrase is more common.

A further complication in any such assessment involves the presence or absence of a noun following "hotel" in the phrase. I ran Ngram searches for three pairs of verbs + the phrase "in/at a hotel": "met at a hotel" vs. "met in a hotel"; "stayed at a hotel" vs. "stayed in a hotel"; and "stopped at a hotel" vs. "stopped in a hotel." In all three instances the "in" phrase was likelier than the "at" phrase to draw a following noun.

For instance, in the Google Ngram results for "met at a hotel" versus "met in a hotel," in the first ten results for the 1987-1998 time period, "met in a hotel" was followed by a noun—suite, elevator, bar, room (three times), and restaurant—seven times. In contrast, "met at a hotel" for the 1938-1998 had only one following noun (suite) in the first ten results, although subsequent results offered such additions as garden brunch, swimming pool, and resort.

The phrases "stayed at a hotel" and "stayed in a hotel" were far less often followed by a noun in the Ngram results than "met at a hotel" and "met in a hotel" were—in fact, I didn't see any examples of a following noun involving "stayed at a hotel"—but "stayed in a hotel" did occasionally show up as part of "stayed in a hotel room." The Ngram Viewer couldn't find any examples of "met at a hotel room," "met at a hotel lobby" "met at a hotel bar," or "stayed at a hotel room." It found "in" versions of all of those phrases.

These results lead me to hypothesize that, overall and in everyday usage, the phrase "in a hotel" lends itself to further narrowing by a following noun (especially room) to a significantly greater extent than the phrase "at a hotel" does—and that this phenomenon muddies the waters when it comes to deciding which simple phrase ending in the noun hotel ("at a hotel" or "in a hotel") is more common.

Also of possible interest is the fact that, while Ngram found more matches for "stayed in a hotel" than for "stayed at a hotel" and (by a very small margin) more matches for "met in a hotel" than for "met at a hotel," it found considerably more matches for "stopped at a hotel" than for "stopped in a hotel." This suggests that the preference for "at a hotel" or "in a hotel" depends to a significant extent on the preceding verb.

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I think both can be used given the sentence. They both have the same meaning. I know that some may say that "in" is more specific, I disagree. It is a hotel. Everything is "in". It is more about personal preference and sentence flow.

Example:

  1. I am staying in the DoubleTree in Times Square. (sounds like I am trapped the hotel and to me doesn't sound right although I would not say it is wrong either)

  2. I am staying at the DoubleTree at Times Square. (sounds much better to me)

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I think hotel is a place where we can use preposition 'at' or 'in' . Examples- 1. He will have dinner in a hotel. 2. (At a hotel) So, you can use 'at' or 'in' infront of Hotel in a sentence.

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