“Study At” Or “Study In” – Easy Preposition Guide

Prepositions in the English language can be confusing and deciding the best one to use to fit the context of the message that you want to get across can prove difficult. We particularly see this problem occur with the phrases “study at” and “study in.”

Is It “Study At” Or “Study In”?

Based on accepted rules for grammar, to refer to a specific school or university, you should always use the phrase “study at.” If you are instead referring to a specific location in a school or University (i.e., a library or dining hall), you should use the phrase “study in.”

study at or study in

Let’s look a bit more specifically at this distinction.

Use the preposition “at” to refer to a specific school or university. Use the preposition “in” to refer to a specific enclosed space or building, a specific part of the time within a 24-hour period (i.e., in the morning, in the afternoon, etc.), or a particular geographic location (i.e., in London, in California).

When Should I Use “Study At”?

Use the phrase “study at” if you want to state you are studying at a specific university, school, or other educational institution. The preposition “at’ is the only correct one of the two that you can use in this case.

Here are some examples:

  • Next year I hope to study Literature at Oxford University but I know I will have to work hard.
  • John wants to study at Harvard University and hopes to be a doctor someday.
  • I plan to study at school for the test during 1st period because the teacher often lets us do that.
  • Susan will study at the technical college because she knows exactly the career path she wants to take.

When Should I Use “Study In”?

Use the phrase “study in” only to refer to a specific building or enclosed location where you will be studying, to a specific part of the time in a 24-hour period, or a specific geographic location. You cannot use the preposition “in” to refer to a broader educational institution as a whole.

See the examples shown here:

  • I had to study in my car before class because the library was closed.
  • Do you want to study in the library or in the dining hall when we meet this evening?
  • I will study in the afternoon because my morning is extremely busy.
  • She’s going to study in Boston next year because she fell in love with the city during her recent visit.

See how the first two examples refer to a specific location (in my car and in the library), the third example shows a specific part of the time (in the afternoon), and the last example refers to a particular geographic location (in Boston).

Is “Study At” Or “Study In” Used The Most?

The phrase “study in” is consistently more popular throughout history when you look at this Google Ngram Viewer showing an analysis of how the two phrases are used in books.

study at or study in historical development

 The curve of the graph showing “study in” particularly rises starting around the late 1800s.The popularity in usage, however, doesn’t imply incorrect usage in most instances.

Since the Google analysis does not provide us with detailed context about how the phrases are used, only how often they appear in the books analyzed, one can assume that more often the reference is to a time, specific location to study, or geographical area rather than the broader educational institution.

Although appearing less frequently, the phrase “study at,” has had steady usage from the 1800s until today, demonstrating that it has always been a standardly used expression.

Are “Study At” And “Study In” Used Differently In The US And The UK?

When you compare British English and American English you can easily see that there is no difference in how often the phrases “study at” and “study in” are used with regards to frequency. In both variations of the English language, the phrase “study in” appears more often.

This Google Ngram Viewer graph shows the analysis for the two phrases in British English and shows “study in” always being the preferred version.

study at or study in British English

Here the Google Ngram Viewer showing usage in American English reflects the same trend, although both of the curves are slightly lower throughout history.

study at or study in American English

When Should I Use “Study On”?

Use the phrase “study on” when you are making a reference to a specific day or date or only when referring to a place if you describe the specific surface where your body is placed.

When using the preposition “on” to refer to time, it means a specific day or date (i.e., Wednesday or June 5th). When using the preposition “on” to refer to a place, it describes a specific surface (i.e., table, bed, couch). It cannot refer to a general location.

These examples will help to clarify:

  • I’m going to study on Tuesday for the test because I will remember the information better.
  • I like to study on the bed because I can focus better on the information if I’m comfortable.
  • You should study on Sunday night because you won’t have time to study on Monday.
  • James would always study on the couch watching television and I don’t know how he didn’t get distracted.

Quiz: Have You Mastered Prepositions For “Study”?

Let’s see if you have a good understanding of when and how to use the prepositions “at,” “in,” and “on” correctly with the word “study.” You can find the answers to the questions underneath the next heading.

  1.  Beth is extremely smart and has decided that she will study (A. at/ B. on/ C. in) MIT next year.
  2.  It was so noisy at my house, I had to study (A. at/ B. on/ C. in) the bathroom with the door shut.
  3.  Of all my experiences, I enjoyed the time I studied (A. at/ B. on/ C. in) New York City the most.
  4.  We all agreed that we would study (A. at/ B. on/ C. in)Thursday night because the test was Friday morning.
  5.  Since I didn’t have much time, I decided to study (A. at/ B. on/ C. in) the dining hall while I ate my lunch.

Quiz Answers

  1. A
  2. C
  3. C
  4. B
  5. C

You may also like:

“In College” Or “At College” – Easy Preposition Guide

“At University” Or “In University” – Easy Preposition Guide

“At School” Or “In School” – Easy Preposition Guide