In London but at the station: prepositions for talking about travel

by Liz Walter​
Several readers have asked for information on prepositions, so I will start with a blog post that looks at an area where they are really important: travel.

The first thing to remember is that we use to (and not ‘in’) after the verb go:

We are going to London.

I went to the supermarket.

With the verb arrive, it’s a bit more complicated. We arrive in a village, town, city, country or continent, but we arrive at a building or other specific place:

They arrived in Paris this morning.

Call me when you arrive at the airport.

Do not use ‘to’ after ‘arrive’. However, we do use get to with the same meaning as ‘arrive in/at’:

We got to Germany that day.

When you get to the church, turn left.

Note that when the noun is home, we do not use a preposition:

Do you want to go home?

For verbs like be and wait, which are connected with being somewhere, we use in and at in the same way as for ‘arrive’:

I spent a month in Australia.

Wait for me at the station.

We also say at home with these verbs:

I decided to stay at home.

However, we can also use in for buildings if we want to emphasize that we mean the inside:

I’ll meet you at the café. (could be inside or outside)

I’ll meet you in the café. (inside)

Note that you don’t usually need a preposition at all after leave:

I left the office at 6.

The train leaves Cambridge in ten minutes.

However, we sometimes add from when the subject of the sentence is a vehicle, when the place it goes from is important to know:

The train leaves from platform 4.

It is also important to use the correct prepositions to talk about the vehicles we travel in. We use by with all kinds of vehicles to talk about the method of travel:

He goes to work by bike/train/car.

However, to talk about being in a vehicle, we say we are on a bus, train, plane, bike or boat, but in a car or taxi:

I like to read when I’m on the train.

We went there in a taxi.

Similarly, we get on and get off a bus, train, plane, bike or boat, but we get into and get out of a car or taxi.

Talking about travel is very common, and students often make mistakes with these prepositions, so it is worth taking time to remember at least these basic rules.

21 thoughts on “In London but at the station: prepositions for talking about travel

  1. Once again, thank you very much! This is a very fundamental and in some aspects tricky area of the English language for its learners, so this post is a vey useful one, in my opinion.


  2. nil

    This is absolutely very informative and easy-to-understand&remember post about prepositions. Thanks for sharing.
    Kind regards

  3. ahmad ghoraba

    Thanks a lot for your invaluable posts.I was wondering if you could prepare a post on the language used in court highlighting the procedures through which a person could bring a lawsuit against someone or something.

  4. Claudine N. Nunag

    “- – Thank you!’:) Learning again the proper use of it is a must these days-what you share is highly appreciated by my continuous self education.

  5. Jhon Alfie

    Wao great. very informative and useful. it helps me a lot. I am looking forward to anyone that could help me in practicing on English language. Please reply my skype id is ” abdullah.burki01″

  6. Jayasakthivel.V

    Good one. I am having the confusion to use preposition in correct place. So write more about the preposition article. It will help us to improve the language.

  7. Pingback: Agree with and wait for: common mistakes with verbs and their prepositions | About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

  8. Luc007

    I believe it is fairly common in the US to actually use “in” for a bus, train or plane, rather than “on” – e.g. “I can’t talk to you right now: I’m in the plane and we’re about to take off”. Am I mistaken ?

  9. carmen

    I have been searching reliable sources as a clear guideline for years . So I think signing up your dic blog is undoubtedly a platform.

  10. Pingback: Prepositions | ELT Infodump

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