This train stops in/at Paris, in/at Smallville?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by claraet, Sep 3, 2006.

  1. claraet Senior Member

    could anybody explain to me the difference between "in" and "at " ? for example : in Paris or at Paris ? why ?
  2. Henryk Senior Member

    Germany, German
    In Paris. Every town is used with "in".
  3. Old Novice

    Old Novice Senior Member

    USA, English
    There seem to be a number of such conventions in both French and English that are pretty hard to understand for the non-native speaker, and which may be largely arbitrary. But I'll try. "In" conveys "surrounded by". "At" implies a location. So if I'm "in the station", I am inside its walls. If I am "at the station", I am at that location and not elsewhere in the city, perhaps inside its walls and perhaps standing on sidewalk in front of it. But I've haven't studied English grammar in 40 years or so, and someone else may well have a better explanation.
  4. Cayuga Senior Member

    Well, if it were a smaller town than Paris, you might say, "The train stops at Cergy." But that's the only use of "at" I can imagine.
  5. Old Novice

    Old Novice Senior Member

    USA, English
    I agree, you are "in" a town and not "at" it. Part of what I attempted to convey in my earlier post is that since that you can be either "in" or "at" a station but not a town, the use of "in" may simply be arbitrary. But maybe those better educated in English grammar have a better explanation than this.
  6. claraet Senior Member

    thank you for your explanation Old novice but I had observed that in some cases , with small towns , as Cayuga said, you use "at" and not "in" .And
    I'd really like to know why .
  7. jet_leader1 Senior Member

    British English
    I agree with most reponses here, the preposition "in" is used to refer to cities. "At" can be used very informally, but it's grammatically incorrect.
  8. Old Novice

    Old Novice Senior Member

    USA, English
    One hypothesis: "The train stops at Cergy" may be equating "Cergy" with the train station in Cergy, not the town itself. The train stops at Penn Station, in New York. "The train stops at Cergy Station, in Cergy."

    Does this seem right to those who've heard "at" for small towns?
  9. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In the very particular example of trains, the train stops at anywhere on the way from A to B. It stops in B.

    Perhaps ... :p
  10. ChrissyH Member

    S. W. France
    English England
    "In" and "at" is indeed a tricky one - when asked this question by my French students my quick-fix answer is to say - if in doubt use "at" for an "address" - hence at the station, at school (an address could be substituted) but in Paris, (but where in Paris???)...
  11. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    Ah, but consider a train going from Frankfurt to Amstardam. This train may make a stop in Cologne, not at Cologne. But while the train is stopped at the Cologne train station, you can step outside and buy cigarettes.

    I think at no point would you use at for a city, big or small. Unless there was some WWII battle at, say... Stalingrad...
    EDIT: suddenly, I am not so certain anymore. Yes, I suppose if this were a small place, you'd say does the train stop at Smallville? (Although I still think in sounds better) But I think in this case it would indeed be short for the name of the train station. Maybe.
  12. Cayuga Senior Member

    Yes, that's exactly what I meant. "The train/bus stops at [small town]" is the only instance in which I can imagine the use of "at." I think that, as you say, it is a synecdoche, with [name of town] being used for [station in the town].

    (Is that a synecdoche, or the inverse of one?)

    And "Does this train stop at Paris?" sounds a little odd because (I guess) there are clearly many different stations in Paris.

    Anyway, my point was that other than asking if a vehicle stops there, I think "in" is always preferable.
  13. chivy64 Member

    So sit at your place is correct or sit on your place is correct? why?
    Thanks in advance.
  14. MichaelW Senior Member

    English (British)
    I would say a train stops at a station or in a place, but would generally use "at" for small towns or villages, "in" for cities.

    The train stops in Bristol, and it stops at Bristol Temple Meads station.
    Ther train stops at Clochmerle and goes on to stop in Paris at the Gare de Lyon.
  15. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    This is an interesting idiosyncrasy of English. We stay and live in places, whether a city, town, village or hamlet. On the other hand, while on our travels we stop at more of them than we stop in. Our trains and buses particularly call at places, rather than stopping at them. (I don't mean that they don't also stop at them, but that's not what the station announcement says). "The train arriving at Platform 3 is the 10:03 for London Paddington calling at Tiverton Parkway, Taunton, Bristol Temple Meads ... etc" Always the name of the station. So it would seem that the place name that the bus or train stops at is nothing more than the name of the station, as suggested by Old Novice. We are not, in reality, saying that the train or bus stops at "name of village", but that it stops at "name of station". A pity that nobody here is old enough to have travelled by stagecoach. I suspect that they would have stopped in various towns and villages and at the Red Lion or the King's Arms.

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