When it comes to using the prepositions “at the hotel” or “in the hotel,” it’s important to know what the difference is. While it’s subtle, it’s still there, and you should know which variation to use based on which verb you’re using alongside it. In this article, we’ll explain everything.
Do You Stay “At The Hotel” Or “In The Hotel”?
“At the hotel” should be used when talking about a hotel as a location. You can use it talking about being there rather than explicitly being inside. “In the hotel” should be used when talking about the hotel building. You have to be physically inside it to say “in.”
According to The Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of “hotel” is “a building where you pay to have a room to sleep in, and where you can sometimes eat meals.” Since it is both a building and a location, both “in” and “at” are correct.
To demonstrate this point further, take a look at this graph. “At the hotel” is more popular to use, but both variations are common in English, and you can generally use them interchangeably if you’d like to. Native speakers usually won’t mind either one.
To add to how similar these two phrases are, we dug even deeper. According to Google, “in the hotel” is mentioned 49,500 times on The New York Times website, while “at the hotel” is mentioned 47,400 times.
Does The Preferred Version Differ In American English And British English?
Usually, you might come across some obvious differences between prepositions when using American or British English. We’ve got some more graphs to find out whether they’re different.
In this graph, we can see the usage in American English. It follows much the same structure as what we saw in the section above. “At the hotel” is more popular but only by a fraction.
We can go further with American English and present the following findings: according to Google, “in the hotel” is mentioned 49,500 times on The New York Times websites, while “at the hotel” is mentioned 47,400 times.
In this graph, we can see that the usage is slightly different in British English. “At the hotel” and “in the hotel” are almost identical in usage and have been following the same line over the last decade or two.
According to Google, “in the hotel” is mentioned 8,610 times on The New York Times website, while “at the hotel” is mentioned 8,710 times. Clearly, the phrases are more synonymous in British English than they are in American English because these numbers are only 100 apart.
Does The Preferred Preposition Depend On The Verb Used?
We mentioned in the introduction about using different verbs before the prepositions. This is perhaps the most telling sign of which variation of the word you should use. We’ll cover some of the most common verbs to use so you can see how they change the preposition.
Met At / In The Hotel
According to this graph, using “met” as the verb makes both “at the hotel” and “in the hotel” equal in popularity.
This is most likely because you can meet somebody inside of a building, but you can also meet them at a location. Since a hotel can refer to both of these things, people don’t mind whether you use “at the hotel” or “in the hotel.”
Stayed At/In The Hotel
According to this graph, using “stayed” as the verb makes “at the hotel” the slightly more popular choice.
This is because when we’re talking about staying at a hotel, we’re usually on holiday or vacation. That means we’re treating it like a location rather than a building so we can enjoy ourselves more. It’s a subconscious change we make in the language.
“Stayed at the hotel” is the best option of the two.
Stopped At/In The Hotel
According to this graph, we can see the most obvious difference between the two phrases. “Stopped at the hotel” is by far the most common choice.
This time, we aren’t actually entering the hotel. Usually, the verb “stopped” means we’re waiting there for a time and then moving on. We don’t physically go inside the building, so we don’t use it.
Does The Conclusion Also Count For “At A Hotel” Vs. “In A Hotel”?
According to Google, “in a hotel” is mentioned 33,600 times on The New York Times Website, while “at a hotel” is mentioned 18,500 times.
This information clearly shows that when we use “a” instead of “the” the prepositions switch in popularity.
According to this graph, we can see that apparent switch. “In a hotel” is by far the more popular choice of the two.
This is mostly because “a” is used as a general word, whereas “the” is used to specify. Since we use “a hotel,” we’re not attached to the hotel we’re staying in and thus are treating it as a building rather than a location. “In” is the correct preposition for buildings.
Let’s see some quick examples to show you how to use the prepositions correctly!
- I stayed at the hotel for as long as I could afford it!
- He works at a hotel on weekends.
- He is staying at the hotel until his house is fixed.
- We should go in the hotel to ask if they have any phones.
- I love staying at a hotel; I don’t care which one!
- You’ll find me in a hotel this weekend!
- I’m going to be staying at the hotel this summer!
- I’m at the hotel all evening.
- We’re staying here at the hotel until they tell us to leave in the morning.
- We met at the hotel and went partying from there.
- We briefly stopped at the hotel to stock up on things.
- Should we meet in the hotel?
“At the hotel” is the most common variation to use. It applies more often because we’re talking about a specific hotel and treating is as a location. “In the hotel” is only used when talking about the hotel as a building (and not a holiday destination).
You may also like:
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.