Tackling Tricky Prepositions: “At” or “In” University?

Prepositions are such tricky little things! Still, they are an absolutely essential part of speaking perfect English, regardless of their size.


Why Are Prepositions Important?

Prepositions are most often used in front of nouns or pronouns, and they show the relationship between the noun or pronoun and the other words in a sentence. They indicate direction, time, location, and spatial relationships, as well as other abstract types of relationships.


How Will I Know Which One to Use?

We wish there were a secret formula for determining which preposition to use with a particular combination of words! The best way to learn which prepositions go with which words is to read as much as you can in English, and pay attention to which combinations sound right. Eventually, the choice will be automatic! The more examples you read, the more comfortable you will be in choosing the correct preposition.


Where Are You Studying?

The correct preposition is at! For example, you would say: “I’m studying at Harvard University.”

Other correct examples using this preposition include:

  • I’m studying for a PhD at the university.
  • I’m an Arts major at Harvard University.
  • I’m at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • She’s a professor at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.


Talking About Your Field of Study

This is where you might get confused! The correct preposition here would be in. For example, “I’m majoring in Physics at Harvard University!” You could also say “I’m studying at Harvard University, in the Physics Department.”

Other correct examples using this preposition include:

  • He is in the university.
  • The library is in the university.
  • I’m a sophomore in college.
  • I’m in university for a master’s degree.


When Can I Use Both?

In some instances, you can use both of these prepositions in the same sentence when talking about a university.

For example:

  • He’s a Teacher’s Assistant in the Department of Engineering at Harvard University.
  • I’m a PhD student at the Department of Anthropology in Harvard University.
  • She’s a lecturer in Biological Sciences at Harvard.


Take this short quiz to test your knowledge!

Click on “Start Quiz” to begin.

[quiz-cat id=”37254″]


Check out our video below on this topic:


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Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

About the Author
Gabby Wallace is the Founder of Go Natural English, where you can quickly improve your confidence speaking English through advanced fluency practice. Even if you don't have much time, this is the best place for improving your English skills. Millions of global intermediate - advanced English students are learning with Gabby's inspiring, clear, and energetic English lessons. Gabby has a Masters Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Boston University and 20+ years experience helping students become fluent through her online courses and membership program.

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