As per my understanding, 'at' can be used for streets and specific address etc. and 'in' has to be used for cities.

For eg. at Suite 101, Johnshon Avenue in London.

But I see in a prominent English news paper of India 'The Hindu' that they use 'at' for cities. This is what they publish after the header:

"Printed at Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad"

I think it should be: "Printed in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad".

Or it should be something like:

Printed at xyz press in Chennai.

  • 2
    You are correct. Seems to be one of those Indian idiosyncrasies that make them sit on the table instead of at the table. Perhaps they meant Printed at the Chennai printing press which would be correct
    – mplungjan
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 6:03
  • There seems to be an accepted difference between how larger towns and cities, and smaller settlements, should be treated preposition-wise. You'd never say 'I'll meet you at Paris / New York / Moscow / Oldham', but you might switch from 'in' to 'at' for small settlements such as Ault Hucknall and Stoke Gabriel. Perhaps settlements represented by a mere dot on a reasonably large-scale road map. Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 8:52
  • @mplungjan: I'm from India and I have never heard of sitting on a table (except of course the standard meaning, of actually sitting atop it). Sitting on a chair, yes. Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 19:58
  • I did some searching for the phrase "printed at" followed by a city name and while it is not common there are a number of cases. "Any currency printed at Fort Worth" and "First King James Bible printed at Oxford" are two examples.
    – Al Maki
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 4:06

8 Answers 8


You are partly correct that the usage should be in for a city or country and at for an exact address when describing a location.

But even with exact addresses, in should be used for first person:

  • I am in London
  • I am on Brompton Road
  • I am in Harrods

Another related usage is on for a street — if you are not giving a specific location then this should be used:

  • Harrods Store is at 87–135 Brompton Road
  • Harrods is on Brompton Road
  • Harrods is in London

There can however be some confusion when a district name is also a street name. For example, a store may be in the Oxford Street area of London without being on Oxford Street itself. This is conversationally extended to say that a place is off somewhere (e.g. 'off Oxford Street') — meaning 'not actually on, but not far from'.

  • 2
    I'm not sure about the blanket use of on for streets. I can say "I went to the fishmongers in the High Street," and that wouldn't be wrong [certainly for BrE].
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 9:34
  • See also the Related Question linked in the Question's comments.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 10:43
  • @AndrewLeach - I would see this as a case of "the High Street" being an area designator but that is probably outside of the scope of the question. We are also missing the of usage - as in "Harrods of London" where it is assumed that there is only one such named location within the area designated but there may be more than one such name elsewhere. Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 10:54
  • Andrew was politely challenging your rather dogmatic 'Another related usage is on for a street — if you are not giving a specific location then this should be used' (bolding mine). Since you don't accept his polite corrective, I'll say He's right - your claim needs hedging. Try the less arrogant 'This is often used:' Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 23:11
  • @EdwinAshworth I would say that "should" - no bold - was hedging as should indicates that it is a preferred rather that compulsory as in "must" or "have to". My intent was to indicate that this was the best usage without it being a compulsory usage. I have included an entire paragraph indicating that "in" is also used where referring to a street designated area. Personally I find sentences that use the same word multiple times to be poor - try "I am in Harrods of London on Brompton Road off of Oxford Street." verses a version that uses all "in"s. Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 6:32

Yes and no. I'd agree that the preposition in would normally be the better word to use, particularly when an activity happens inside the city limits. However, that's not hard-and-fast, and I don't quite like the inflexibility of the rule as you stated it: 'in' has to be used for cities.

For example, the word at can sometimes be used to mean "near", as in,

The soldiers clashed at Gettysburg.

The word at might also be used when talking about a momentous event, where the city is considered a meeting place:

The treaty was signed at Versailles.

In the case of:

Printed at Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad

I read that as:

Printed at [the presses in] Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad

which sounds just fine to me.

When the use of a preposition doesn't match a rule of thumb you've been taught, chances are that the word is simply being used in a way that's not quite so ordinary – not that the "wrong word" has been used.

Ah, prepositions! Those two- and three-letter words can often be much more flexible than we sometimes initially realize.

  • It seems to be a semi-rule that you could say that "at" applies to a point on the map, and if your scale is wide enough you can be "at" a city.
    – JeffSahol
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 12:20

I've seen "at" used in older writings. For example, I've seen in old newspapers, "Mr. Smith is superintendent of the public schools at Springfield" or "Mr. Smith owns the large factory at Springfield." I think it's just an evolution of language thing.


You use "in" for a city because you can be in the city or will be in(side) the city. Same for a country. You will be inside the country.

For places like a store both in and at can be used.

I will meet you at the cafe. A little ambiguous.
I will meet you in the cafe. You should expect to meet the person inside the cafe.

For streets and addresses, you cannot be inside these things. So you would use at or on.

  • For streets we use in in BrE - see Related Question linked in the Question's comments.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 10:46

If at is used for cities, it is usually because of an implied location within the cities.

For example,

The plane stops at Dallas on the way to San Francisco (implies DFW Airport).

Next weekend, Chicago will play against Dallas at Atlanta (implying Georgia Dome stadium).

In the case of the paper given above, they probably mean specific printing presses in these cities (but surely, this is not so obvious as in the above two examples).


In many high school and university diplomas, you will find preposition 'at' used before the name of the city (e.g. 'This is to certify that John Smith has successfully fulfilled the course of studies prescribed for graduation from this school and is therefore awarded with the title of Bachelor of Science. Given AT Michigan, December 2009.') I guess it's pretty much the same usage.


Printed at [city] is a set formula which has been used since the relatively early days of printing in English. This search gives examples from 1547 to 1900. At least toward the start of that period, it was common to use at [city] where we would now say in.*

A other contributors explain, this phrase does not match modern usage. It has remained in use anyway as a kind of obscure exception to the rule. I guess the formula given at [city], which nicolettox's answer mentions as appearing on many US diplomas, is an example of the same thing.

On top of this, in the study of ancient Greece and Rome, it is normal to use at Rome, at Athens and so on, instead of in. Less commonly one sees this in scholarly works on later periods. I suspect that this relates the fact that apparently cities cannot take the preposition in in Latin (source). This may even explain the preference for at in the cases above, if it was seen as somehow more Latinate.

*For example the author of this book from 1547 identifies himself as "Mayster Anthony Marcort at Geneue [Geneva]". An easy way to find many examples of this is to look at the King James Bible from sixty-odd years later: it looks like at and in are often interchangeable for cities. There must have been some difference though, as printed in [city name] doesn't seem to occur until later. Looking for that phrase on archive.org, the older entries all come from phrases like printed in double columns added by modern librarians.


This is the fault of attempting to make English conform to the grammar of Latin.

When translating Latin, due to the history of how the locative case wound up being absorbed into the ablative case, the convention is to use the preposition at instead of in when a city name is the compliment to the preposition. English-speaking people who wanted to appear learned would construct phrases like "at London" because they'd read things like that in translations from Latin (or wanted to seem like they had read those translations).

Similarly, we've inherited the erroneous belief that it is ungrammatical to split infinitives (e.g. "to boldly go"). It is certainly ungrammatical in Latin because infinitives are expressed in a single word (e.g. clamare, habere, mittere) as opposed to the two words necessary in English (e.g. to claim, to have, to send). But a phrase like "to boldly claim" is perfectly intelligible and grammatical English despite being impossible to construct in Latin in precisely the same way.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.