I often get confused how to use in, on, at, from and for.


I have a phone in/on/at my bag.

Meet me at/in/on this hotel.

They sound kind of right but I'm not sure which is correct.

Is there a simple way to remember how to use those?

  • I'm afraid that knowing when to use which preposition is learned through practice. Any rules are full of holes. Sep 4, 2013 at 9:47
  • Thank you for the heads up Matt. Yes, that's what I also thought, but I also have to start from somewhere :) I don't want to be using wrong preposition without any initial guidance.
    – Pennf0lio
    Sep 4, 2013 at 10:46

1 Answer 1

  • to and for are usually used for an indirect object, such as:

I gave a book to Tom for his birthday.

  • in is short for inside, denoting a location in the interior of something; for example:

I have a phone in my bag.

  • on is a location resting on top of, or above, something else:

The lamp was on the table.

  • at describes being in proximity to, or coincident with, a geographic location:

Oh no! I left the tickets for the play at the hotel, in the envelope, on the dresser.

Another usage of to is the one opposite in meaning to from. In this case motion between two locations (or times) is inferred, with the source being referenced by from and the destination by to:

I moved the car from the garage to the street so we could finally patch the hole in the floor.

  • Thanks for clarifying it, Pieter. I really appreciate it.
    – Pennf0lio
    Sep 4, 2013 at 4:24
  • 1
    You're most welcome. I just added a minor edit to the first example to exemplify both prepositions (to and for) leading indirect objects. Sep 4, 2013 at 4:28

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