"in" vs. "at" (for different cities)

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Gavril, Sep 12, 2010.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Some languages use a different locative expression for different cities/towns. For example, Finnish uses the inessive case ending -ssa/-ssä for some cities:

    Helsingissä "in Helsinki"
    Turussa "in Turku"

    But it uses the adessive case ending -lla/-llä for other cities:

    Tampereella "in Tampere" (literally, "on/at Tampere")
    Rovaniemellä "in Rovaniemi"

    There used to be a similar pattern in English (maybe only in British English -- I'm not clear on all the details): a century ago, some speakers would say in London, in Birmingham etc., but at Sheffield, at Newcastle and so on. As I recall, the word in was limited to very large cities, and at was used for all other cities.

    Do any other languages make this kind of distinction?
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2010
  2. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    Not in Turkish. Turkish uses the stative case ending for all the cities and countries, it can alter according to vocal and consonant harmonies but originally it's the same thing: -de/-da/-te/-ta.

    New York'ta

    and so on.

    Hungarian, I believe, uses a specific suffix for Hungarian cities, and a different one for all the others. But a native should better confirm it. :)
  3. ilocas2 Senior Member

    We use only the preposition V for all cities and towns in Czech.

    Only with 3 towns I've heard or read in my life the preposition NA - Kladno, Mělník, Dobříš; but the preposition V can be used as well.

    I don't know why exactly these 3 towns, since they are totally average small towns.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2010
  4. Orlin Banned

    I think that Bulgarian and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian use only "in" for towns - в and u respectively:
    В София./U Sofiji.
    В Белград./U Beogradu.
    В Ню Йорк./U New Yorku. (I'm not sure about the spelling of the last example in the 3 national varieties.)
  5. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    There are exceptions for BCS. For example, one could say "Na Palama" instead of "U Palama" referring to Pale, a small town in the mountainous area east of Sarajevo. It's similar with Cetinje ("Na Cetinju"), a small town in Montenegro, historical capital of that country and today the official seat of the Montenegrin president.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2010
  6. Orlin Banned

    Ali je upotreba "u" ipak uvek moguća, zar ne?
  7. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Meni "U Palama" djeluje neprirodno ali Google pokazuje dosta takvih upotreba. Za Cetinje evo malo sa Wiki:
  8. Orlin Banned

    Normalno je da ima mnogo takvih upotreba jer je "u" masovni slučaj a i logično je: "u" označava unutar granica nečega, tj. u nekom gradu=unutar njegovih administrativnih granica. Za Cetinje postoji nekakav razlog za totalno preferiranje "na" bez vidljive logike.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2010
  9. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Trebalo bi pogledati historijsku upotrebu, moguće kako neko brdsko ili planinsko naselje dosegne određenu veličinu tako ljudi umjesto "na" počnu koristiti "u" (nagađam samo).

    U samom Sarajevu (a možda i drugdje) opet mislim da "na" preovladava za označavanje određenih dijelova grada: "na Bistriku", "na Vratniku", "na Bjelavama", "na Alipašinom Polju", "na Dolac Malti", "na Dobrinji" itd.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2010
  10. Juri Senior Member

    Koper, near Trieste
    In Slovenian for high places most used is na: na gradu(castle), na Golici(mountain);
    the same for Northern places: na Švedskem, na Gorenjskem. But curious, two lakes distant only two km, they are said
    na Bledu & v Bohinju.
  11. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    We only use em in Portuguese, but a couple of city names, exceptionally, are used with a definite article: no Rio de Janeiro, no Porto, no Cairo (no = em, prep., + o = art.).
  12. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    In German every city, town or village has the preposition "in":

    in Berlin, in Rio de Janerio, in Fredericksburg, etc.

    As far as I know there isn't any city which demands an article.
  13. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Spanish uses en (in) with verbs that show no movement, but a (to, at) with verbs of movement. Example: Estoy en Madrid = I'm in Madrid, Voy a Madrid = I'm going to Madrid. I think this is true in Portuguese too.

    French (and Italian and Catalan too, I believe) uses à (to, at) in every situation. Same example: Je suis à Paris = I am in Paris, Je vais à Paris = I'm going to Paris.

    By the way, I make that difference in English you were talking about. Cities with (in), smaller towns with (at). I live in New York. I live at Harper's Ferry.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2010
  14. phosphore Senior Member

    Mi za sve delove Beograda kao naselja koristimo na: na Paliluli, na Dorćolu, na Dušanovcu, na Starom Gradu, na Vračaru, na Voždovcu, na Kalemegdanu, na Trošarini, itd. Međutim, za delove grada koji su naselja za sebe ili su bili posebna naselja koristimo u: u Zemunu, u Borči, u Surčinu, u Kaluđerici. Obično se kaže i na Novom Beogradu, mada se sreće i u Novom Beogradu.

    Ali za gradove same ipak mislim da će Pale i Cetinje biti izuzeci. Čak i za Novo Brdo (mesto na Kosovu) ja bih rekao u Novom Brdu, iako se za Banovo Brdo (kraj u Beogradu) kaže na Banovom Brdu.
  15. Maroseika Moderator

    In Russian all the towns are used with prepostion в (in) with only one outdated (or stylized) exception for Moscow - на Москве.
  16. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Jazyk, wouldn't you all say... Vou a Sâo Paulo, vou ao Rio de Janeiro? Or do you say "em" even in that case?
  17. Lars H

    Lars H Senior Member

    It would be interesting to hear someone understanding Finnish to comment on this. But I have three reflections. Helsinki and Turku are both seaside ports, they are both older than the two others, and they have both previously had a more substantial Swedish speaking population, three things that differ them from Tampere and Rovaniemi.

    In Swedish, "in a town" is always written "i" as in "...i Stockholm"

    The only Swedish example I can think of is a small town on the West coast, Marstrand. "Jag är på Marstrand" (I'm on Marstrand).

    But then this is the name of the small island where it is situated, an old fortress and the tiny town beneath the fortress.
  18. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    I'm sorry to say that your reflections are not correct. But don't worry, even Finns make often mistakes because there are no exact rules.

    You can't even conclude it from the name of the place: Well, if it ends -järvi (lake) it's always -järvellä (on lake), and if it ends -joki (river) it's always -joella (on river). But if the place name ends -lahti (bay) it can be either -lahdessa (in bay) or -lahdella (on bay), and in the same way place names ending -ranta (strand, seaside) it can be either -rannassa (in bay) or -rannalla (on bay).

    There are also other similar looking place names that get different forms, for example Vantaa / Vantaalla but Laukaa / Laukaassa.

    Then there are other difficulties like unexpected changes in the word body.

    The only rule is the local way to speak. But how could a stranger, not to mention a foreigner, know how they speak?

    If you want to learn all these incomprehensible oddities, there is a list of declensions of all the Finnish place names.
  19. CapnPrep Senior Member

    I'm not so sure that Finnish and English are that similar, after all… From Hakro's explanation it appears that the distinction in Finnish corresponds more to "in" vs. "on", and that it is not reliably correlated with the size of the town/city (or any other geographic/demographic features).

    The (now mostly obsolete) English usage comes up quite often in the English Only forum. Apparently many learners of English are still taught the old rule about large cities vs. small towns, while most native speakers are completely unaware of it.
    Why ''at' instead of ''in''?
    in city / at town
    Preposition: I live <at, in> Barcelona.

    The question of à Avignon vs. en Avignon (and Arles) comes up regularly in the French forums:
    FR: en/à Avignon, Arles
    en/à Arles, Avignon, etc.
    à Aubervilliers / aux Aubervilliers
  20. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Harper's Ferry might be a special case -- the Ferry part of the name seems to encourage the use of at rather than in. Would you say at for any town that's considered "small", in the US or elsewhere?
  21. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    I was thinking about that and it really depends on the town. I would say at Ithaca, at Elmira, at Sunnydale, but definitely in Winchester, in Hartford. Sometimes both sound okay, in Syracuse, at Syracuse. Other times I want to say "at" even if it's big, like I'm at St. Louis, at Louisville but "in" doesn't bother me either. For sure 'at' sounds wrong with big cities. It must be in Miami, in Chicago. I know "in" is the norm and I try to say it all the time, but sometimes in class I slip up and say "I was at Dijon last weekend" and people look at me confused.
    I didn't know there was some older rule that accepted "at". I had thought in my mind it could be linked to size or perhaps the idea or experience people have of a certain place, for example my hometown is really small but it's always "in" for me.
    So you never say "at"?
  22. Juri Senior Member

    Koper, near Trieste
    May be interesting that in Italian we say -as exception - with article : l'Aquila, la Spezia,il Vesuvio, l'Adige(&all rivers);
    islands as l'Elba,le Tremiti,la Sardegna, la Sicilia;
    but without article: Cipro, Creta, Ceylon;
    il Cairo,l'Aja(Den Haag),il Pireo,laMecca,l'Avana(Habana),la Roccella(La Rochelle)
    Of course: La Paz and Los Angeles.
  23. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Interesting, I should have imagined there would be threads on "in/at" in English Only. I hardly ever visit that forum. I should read it more often. They are passionate there. I can't believe people get worked up like that over a preposition. Anyway, in my modest opinion I don't believe "at" is obsolete or old-fashioned, at least everywhere with everybody. Although in some cases I know I have imposed older differences on myself (may/can that I never used or distinguished as a child,etc), "at" does sound very natural to me.

    Yes, I know people say "en Avignon", I didn't know "en Arles". My dilema in French is "dans le" or "en" with départements or American states, but that's another thread.
  24. CapnPrep Senior Member

    I think specific discussion about the English usage should probably take place in English Only. I've added some references to some old grammars in the in city / at town thread. If you post your opinions there, merquiades, I'm sure people will be more than happy to explain to you why you're totally wrong… ;)
  25. maraintranslation Senior Member

    Paris, FRANCE

    НА Москве? Впервые слышу...:confused:
  26. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    I say a, which is standard, but many Brazilians says em.
  27. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    A Madrid means "to Madrid", not "in Madrid". The former implies a displacement, the latter refers to location. As far as the question in this thread is concerned, the answer in Spanish and Portuguese is plain and does not depend on surrounding verbs: we always use the same preposition, en (Sp.), em (Pt. - possibly contracted with a definite article).
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2010
  28. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    In Tagalog it is simple " SA". in Manila City( Sa Lungsod Maynila)
  29. singoloindividuo New Member


    Andare a Roma; a Milano ; a Torino ; a Parigi ; a Mosca ; ...
    Andare in Toscana ; in Francia ; in Russia ; in Brasile ; ...:)
  30. Nizo Senior Member

    In French, before the names of cities or towns, you may use either dans, or à, but not en: Se promener dans Paris or à Paris.

    En Avignon, en Arles are formal constructions, used especially for announcements of celebrations and ceremonies: le festival qui se tient en Avignon. In common usage, one says à Avignon, à Arles.
  31. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    You can choose between two common endings and another very rary ending.

    Budapesten, Szolnokon, Szegeden, Kassán... -n, -on, -en, ön (respecting the vocal harmony)
    Bécsben, Londonban, Moszkvában, Debrecenben, Egerben... -ban, -ben
    Győrött, Pécsett... -ett (very rare)
  32. arielipi Senior Member

    Hebrew combines these into one(more precisely, it combines every 'use' words into one letter) so all words that mean in/at similars are combined to 'be'.
    all 'from' words are combined to one - 'me'.
  33. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Hi Gavril,

    Modern Greek uses the preposition «σε» + accus. in all locative expressions.
    «Σε» + «τον, την, το» (masc. fem. neut. definite article in accus.), becomes «στον» (masc.), «στην» (fem.), «στο» (neut.), following the elision of the epsilon «-ε-»: «Στον Καναδά» [stoɳ gana'ða] (into, to Canada), «στην Αθήνα» [stin a'θina] (into, to Athens), «στο Βέλγιο» [sto 'velʝi.o] (into, to Belgium).

    Modern preposition «σε» [se] comes from the Classical preposition «εἰς» eis or «ἐς» ĕs --> into, to; «σε» is a product of the synizesis of the ancient preposition «εἰς» + personal pron. «ἐμὲ» > «εἰσεμὲ» eise'me --> to me and the subsequent omission of the unstressed initial vowel (a frequent phenomenon of Byz. vernacular Greek): «εἰσεμέ» > «σεμέ» > «σε» «με» (to me)

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