When I asked my coworker where the boss is, she answered me:

  1. He is at the meeting.

Is this correct? I thought it should be:

  1. He is in the meeting.

Because he is physically inside the room having the meeting.

  • I don't know if it is right or wrong but 'at' seems to be used more often. In my own experience, I think it makes the person an observer like at a concert or at the theatre. – WendyG Feb 5 '19 at 11:52
  • basic at or in definitions that a dictionary could help with. – lbf Feb 5 '19 at 14:12

To be at a meeting casts the meeting as an attended event; he has gone to attend the meeting, as at implies "elsewhere, not here". If the meeting is in a room a few feet away from the speaker, in a room whose door she can see, the speaker will not say He is at a meeting (except when lying perhaps). If he should open that door and emerge, the listener might well say I thought you said he was at a meeting?

To be in a meeting casts the meeting as something in which one participates either as a speaker or auditor. The preposition in is silent with respect to distance from the speaker's location.

The definite article indicates that the speaker is referring to a particular meeting, and that the speaker assumes the listener knows which meeting that is.

  • TRomano is right about the use of the word 'at'. It implies somewhere other than the location of the speaker (assuming the speaker to be in the attendee's normal place of work). Also, the meeting itself might not be taking place at that moment: they could have broken for lunch nearby, for example, or the attendee might still be on his way there. Also about the use of 'in'. Pardon me for pointing to a certain gender stereotyping in the use of 'she' and the presumed gender of a secretary: a high probability, I admit, but ... – Tuffy Feb 5 '19 at 14:28
  • You are not pardoned, @Tuffy. It's not his secretary at all but his daughter, who has accompanied him to the office on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. And he's not really in or at a meeting. She is covering for him while he's in the john, shooting up, because he has an opioid addiction. – TRomano Feb 5 '19 at 15:44

He is at the meeting is correct for saying: "I told you before about his schedule. He is at the meeting" (implying that the details of the meeting were discussed already). It may also imply that he is there, but not as an active participant.

He is in a meeting is correct for providing the information for the first time, without adding any other details.

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