Making sure you use the correct prepositions is a fundamental skill in English. Today, we’re looking at the differences between saying “at the office” and “in the office” and how the two might vary based on how you use them.
Should I Say That I Am “In The Office” Or “At The Office”?
“In the office” should be used when you are near the office you’re talking about or when something is physically inside a specific office. “At the office” should be used to generally say that someone or something is in an office building of some kind (usually where they work).
What Does It Mean To Be “In The Office”?
When we use “in the office,” we’re typically referring to a specific office. This specificity is important for us to make the difference between the two phrases known.
Often, when you use “in the office,” two or more people are close to the office that they’re talking about and can indicate it with a simple point of the finger. We also use it to say that someone or something is specifically in the office when speaking.
- Where’s Joe?
- He’s in the office over there.
- Where did you put your briefcase?
- I left it in the office.
- You can find him in the office over there.
- He’s in the office to your right if you’d like to see him.
- Where can I speak to your boss?
- Over in the office on the corner.
In each of these examples, you can see how a specific office is mentioned each time. This is vital when using “in the office” as opposed to “at the office.” Typically, “at the office” is the more common of the two phrases, so it’s only in these situations that you might hear “in the office” used.
However, it’s worth mentioning that both phrases are interchangeable with each other and are correct in either case. Most people tend not to use “in the office” for anything other than the examples we shared above, though.
What Does It Mean To Be “At The Office”?
The more common phrase “at the office” is applied when we’re generally talking about someone or something being in the office. Usually, we’re not at the office at the moment we say or write it. The implication is that we will eventually go back to the office to find the person or thing that we might be looking for.
The phrase “at my office” is used generally, or when we’re talking about working in an office.
- Where is your briefcase?
- I left it at the office.
- Jack is still at the office. I left early.
- He’s at the office all evening. I can’t get through to him.
- When are you coming home?
- I’m at the office for another few hours.
- She’s at the office until six. You can catch her when she’s back.
In each of these cases, there’s less specificity, which is why we use “at the office.” We’re talking about people being at their office (or place of work), but we’re not explicitly telling them which office block they’re a part of or anything further than that.
What Does It Mean To Be “In Office”?
There’s one last phrase that you might have heard of, and it’s different from the other two in itself. If you’ve heard of “in office,” then you might already know that it can only be applied to one situation.
“In office” is what you say when a President in the United States is running a term. You refer to them as “in office” until their term ends after a presidential election. You may also see it written with a hyphen (“in-office”).
There is no other scenario where we would use “in office,” and it certainly isn’t applied to any other workplace. The only workplace you might say it is if you work in the White House and are the President. Otherwise, you use it when talking about the current or previous Presidents while they were in term.
- He was in office for two terms.
- He is in office.
- Which President is in office?
In My Office Vs. At My Office
What about when we swap the simple word “the” with the pronoun “my.” Now things get a little bit different. Both “in my office” and “at my office” are grammatically correct, but one is a lot more popular than the other.
“In my office” is more common to use because using the pronoun “my” specifies that we’re talking about our own office. “At” is used in a more general way, meaning “at my office” doesn’t work as well as “in my office.”
While both of them do work, you’ll almost always see “in my office.” It’s hard to find a good example of someone using “at my office” without wanting to use “in my office” instead. It’s one of those things where both forms are correct, but one is more pleasing to the ear and has stuck over the years while people have been learning different language norms.
- I left my bag in my office.
- She wanted to see me in my office.
- He was waiting for me at my office.
- I ate lunch in my office.
- You should visit me at my office.
Of course, the choice is up to you. Just because it’s not common doesn’t mean people don’t still use “at my office.” The two phrases are interchangeable, and it’s your choice which one you prefer.
Quiz: Have You Mastered If You Are In Or At The Office?
Let’s finish with a quick quiz to see what you might have learned! We’ll include the answers at the end for you to compare against as well!
- I left my briefcase (A. in the office / B. at the office) last night.
- You should wait (A. in the office / B. at the office) over there.
- She visited me (A. in my office / B. at my office).
- He’s been (A. in the office / B. at the office) all day long.
- When are you not (A. in the office / B. at the office)?
You may also like: “On Your Desk” Or “At Your Desk” – Easy Preposition Guide
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.