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Correct usage of ‘on’, ‘at’ and ‘in’ from a foreigner’s point of view

I don't know which of these three sentences is preferable:

  1. India launched its Agni PSLV 5 missile at Chandipur, about 15 km from Balasore.
  2. India launched its Agni PSLV 5 missile in Chandipur, about 15 km from Balasore.
  3. India launched its Agni PSLV 5 missile from Chandipur, about 15 km from Balasore.
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marked as duplicate by coleopterist, MετάEd, StoneyB, Cameron, Kris Sep 20 '12 at 10:47

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

1  
The use of at is ambiguous and might suggest Chandipur was the target; from is an alternative. –  Henry Sep 18 '12 at 6:13
    
Also related: #17440, #33140, etc. –  coleopterist Sep 18 '12 at 6:39
1  
And there is a good answer on Meta about how to frame this sort of question. –  Andrew Leach Sep 18 '12 at 6:48
    
The sentence is not ambiguous because you fire a projectile at a target. –  gam3 Sep 18 '12 at 8:46
    
Normally "launched at Chandipur" would be understood to mean that Chandipur was the target. But: "We considered which missile to use: the one at Chandipur or the one at Hanumangarh. Finally we decided to launch the missile at Chandipur." I think most readers would understand that to mean that the missile located at Chandipur was launched, not that the missile was aimed at Chandipur. That's why "at" is a poor choice in context: it could be ambiguous. –  Jay Sep 18 '12 at 14:33

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

1) India launched its Agni PSLV 5 missile at Chandipur,about 15 km from Balasore.

This results in a missile hitting Chandipur.

2) India launched its Agni PSLV 5 missile in Chandipur,about 15 km from Balasore.

3) India launched its Agni PSLV 5 missile from Chandipur,about 15 km from Balasore.

India launched the missile from a place called Chandipur.

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In OP's context, "at" is ambiguous - it could either mean "located at" or "fired towards". If you didn't know Chandipur was the location of the Indian Army's Integrated Test Range, you might well assume that second (incorrect) meaning.

Both "in" and "from" are equally valid, and unambiguously specify where the launch took place. Arguably "in" more strongly implies that the missile was "long-term based" in Chandipur, where "from" admits more of the possibility that it was transported there specifically for the purpose of being launched from that location.

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To me, "in" sounds as though the missile was both launched in and landed in Chandipur; "from" sounds as though it was launched in Chandipur and landed somewhere else. –  alcas Sep 18 '12 at 13:45
    
@alcas: That's because you strongly associate the word "in" with the launch, and because no target is specified you assume there may not actually be one (they might have shot it straight up in the air as a test). But as my second paragraph says, you can also associate "in" more with the missile (this particular missile is the one [normally] located in Chandipur). –  FumbleFingers Sep 18 '12 at 14:09

Further to the other answers, it shows the importance of word order...

The phrase as quoted suggests Chandipur is the target:

India launched its Agni PSLV 5 missile at Chandipur, about 15 km from Balasore.

Whereas a slight reordering of the clauses has the opposite meaning, suggesting the launch place:

At Chandipur, about 15 km from Balasore, India launched its Agni PSLV 5 missile.

But in general at suggests the target, from the launch-point

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