in the office vs at the office

dian   Friday, January 09, 2004, 02:38 GMT
I'm sorry if this topic has been discussed before. But the choice between "in the office" and "at the office" really bothers me.

Usually, I will choose "in the office" when I refer something that is really inside an office building. So that I will say "I will see you in the office" instead of "I will see you at the office". I am not sure whether this is correct or not.

But, when I searched the sentence using google, I found many examples of using "at the office" and "in the office". I am still confused when I must use "in the office" or "at the office".

Thank you for your help.
Nick   Friday, January 09, 2004, 06:08 GMT
Personally, in this case I'd say it doesn't really matter. I would say you are at the office, but something is in the office, but the distinction really isnot vital.

In Japanese, the particle "de" means at or in.

mjd   Friday, January 09, 2004, 06:26 GMT
Here are some example sentences that could make it easier for you to understand, Dian:


Guy#1: "Well that was a good game. Thanks for giving me your spare ticket."

Guy#2: "No problem. I'll see you at the office tomorrow."

(This is a possible conversation between two co-workers that will see each other tomorrow at work. They're away from work and referring to their workplace).


Guy#1: "Where is John? I have to give him this report."

Guy#2: "He is in the office. I think he is speaking with a client."

(This scene is taking place outside of this office, but the man in question [John] is inside. All of these workers are "at the office" [this is often synonymous with the phrase "at work"], but John is IN a particular office...i.e. he is in the room).


"He's back at the office." = "He's back at the workplace."

"He's back in the office." = "He's back in that room [the office room]."
dian   Friday, January 09, 2004, 06:46 GMT
Wow, it is an interesting explanation.

As written by Nick, I think the difference is not that big. And by looking at example by mjd, it is not too different. It depends only what we mean. The key point is that sometimes we refer something or someone inside a room, while in another time we refer our workplace in general.

Jim   Friday, January 09, 2004, 07:04 GMT
Yeah, I'd agree with Mjd. I think he's summed things up pretty well.
Fly   Friday, January 09, 2004, 18:03 GMT
I thought mjd is a girl?! He's a guy?
mjd   Friday, January 09, 2004, 19:24 GMT
Guys, I'm a guy.
Boy   Friday, January 09, 2004, 22:06 GMT
mjd, An American professor gave me a nice explanation of using prepositions such as 'in' and 'on' before vehicles. Confirm it please If it is correct.

He said to me that use 'in' before a vehicle in which you can SIT only and use 'on' in which you can SIT and STAND UP both.
mjd   Saturday, January 10, 2004, 08:39 GMT
Well I suppose that works well with bikes and cars. However, one could say "He's on the car." This would mean that one is standing on top of the car. This is a completely different meaning than saying one is IN the car, but it is possible to say it.

For everyday purposes I'd say your professor's advice is pretty good.
dian   Monday, January 12, 2004, 03:19 GMT
Boy, could you give me more examples about it? So that we know how to use it in real life.

Thank you.
mjd   Monday, January 12, 2004, 08:07 GMT
Well referring back to what I said about bikes and cars....

One can only sit in a car, thus Boy's formula works. On a bicycle one can sit and stand, thus one gets "on" a bike.
Boy   Monday, January 12, 2004, 19:15 GMT
Bike, Airplane, Bus, train, the ferry (in which you can SIT and STAND both) so you can use preposition 'on'. Use prepostion 'in' before a car because you can SIT only in the car.
Jim   Tuesday, January 13, 2004, 00:34 GMT
You can stand up in a submarine but unless you're on top you'd say that you were in it.
Santa Claus   Tuesday, January 13, 2004, 01:33 GMT
You can stand up in a car if you take out all of the seats and open the sunroof and you wouldn't say you were on it.
Jim   Tuesday, January 13, 2004, 01:54 GMT

What about these?

"Fukuro no naka in hon ga aru." = "There's a book in the bag."

"Ame no naka wo dete iku." = "Go out in the rain."

"Kare ha nabe in dashi wo ireta." = "He put stock in the pot."

"Watashi ha Gogatsu ni umareta." = "I was born in May."

"Sore ha nagasa ga san senchi desu." = "It is three centimetres in length."

"Miki ha uchi ni imasu ka?" = "Is Miki in?"

"Hachi ji in sake wo nondeimashita." = "I was drinking sake at eight o'clock."

"Kono baka oyaji wo mite." = "Look at that stupid old man."

"Kare ha sugu ni deta." = "He left at once."

"Kare ha uchi ni ha imasen." = "He is not at home."

"Anata ha koko de tabemasu ka?" = "Do you eat here?"

"Kare ha gan de shinda." = "He died of cancer."

"Kare ha ni ju sai de kekon shita." = "He got married when he was twenty."

"Sake ha kome de tsukuru." = "Sake is made from rice."

"Kono tori ha kami de dekiteiru." = "This bird is made of paper."

"Watashi ha densha de soko he itta." = "I went there by train."

"Eki he iku tochuu de kare ni atta." = "I met him on the way to the station."

I don't think that it's as simple as "de" = "at" or "in".