A lot of people get confused by ‘in a city’ and ‘at a city’. This isn’t surprising, really. Both terms can be used, and the terms are used interchangeably in some English dialects (namely Indian English). We will tell you how things work in British/American English on this page.
Is It ‘In’ or ‘At’ a City?
You would use ‘in a city’ when you are describing something happening or located within a city, e.g., ‘I live in a city’. If you are describing the city as a singular or a specific place within that city, you use ‘at’ e.g. ‘I work at a city bank”.
Perhaps the best way to describe this is to think about how you would imagine the city. If you can see the city as a living, breathing world that you can be inside, you would tend to use the phrase ‘in the city’. So, if you go on vacation to a city, you could say, “I am on vacation in a city”.
If you cannot imagine the place as a ‘living, breathing world’, or you probably won’t be around in that place for long e.g., a quick stopover, then you can use ‘at’ e.g. “I stop at a city in England on my way to a vacation in a city in the US”.
In most cases, these terms cannot be used interchangeably. At least not in British or American English. Some English dialects will use them interchangeably, but this is likely something that you won’t need to worry about.
‘In’ a City
When you are located within a city or describe something within a city, you would use ‘in’ a city. The term ‘in’ implies that the city is a living, breathing world that one can exist in. For example, “I am in a city,” or “the statute is located in a city”.
If you describe something physically located within a city, or a concept related to what is happening within a city, you would use ‘in a city’. For example, if you were stating that a city had a statue, you could say, “the statue is in a city”. If you are describing working, then you could say “working in a city”.
Here are some examples of how to use ‘in a city’ in a sentence:
- I am currently living in a city
- I want to work in a city
- It isn’t fun to live in a city.
- I want to work in a city bank
- The next train stops in a city.
‘At’ a City
‘At a City’ is used in two cases. The first is when you are not trying to imagine the city as a 3D world, i.e. a world where people and places exist. In your mind, the city is nothing more than just a name. The second is when you are describing a specific thing in a city.
The most common way to use ‘at a city’ is if you are not trying to describe something in particular within the city. To you, the ‘city’ part is just a name, e.g. ‘I stop at a city on my way to…’.
‘At a city’ can also be used to describe a specific place within a city. For example, you could say “Does the train stop at a city train station’ or “I will meet you at a city town center”.
Here are some ways that you can use ‘at a city’ in a sentence:
- I stopped at the city on the way to my next destination
- The train stopped at a city train station.
- I stopped at a city I had no intention of going into.
- The plane landed at a city airport
- The children play at a city playground.
Is It ‘In London’ or ‘At London’?
If you describe something happening or existing within London, you would say ‘in London’. If you were describing something with ‘London’ in the name e.g. London Zoo, or describing ‘London’ as a destination that you stop at briefly on your way to another destination, you say ‘at London’,
According to Google Ngram Viewer, the phrase ‘in London’ gets a lot more use than ‘at London’. This shows you how rare it is to use ‘at London’.
Here are some examples, so you know how both ‘in London’ and ‘at London’ can be used.
- I work in London
- I work at London Victoria Station
Is It ‘In New York’ Or ‘At New York’?
You would say ‘in New York’ when you are attempting to describe something located within the city or state of New York. If you are talking about a location with ‘New York’ in its name, then you would be able to use ‘At New York’.
If you look at Google Ngram Viewer, you will notice that ‘in New York’ is used considerably more often than ‘at New York’, which goes to show the limited amount of use that ‘at New York’ has.
We want to share with you a few examples. This way you should be able to understand whether to use ‘in New York’ or ‘at New York’:
- I am looking for a house in New York
- The plane will land at New York airport.