Should you say ‘at the office’ or ‘in the office’? Which one is correct? This article will explore that, plus how to use the correct one correctly in a sentence.
To keep it short and simple, both are correct, depending on how you use them.
So, what's the correct way to say this phrase?
Well, you know it’s okay to say either phrase, but in what context? Let’s take a further look and also examine the phrase ‘in office.’
‘In office’ is a term you might’ve come across, and while it initially seems like it’s incorrect to use, it’s actually an acceptable term to use when talking about the position a person holds.
For example, you might hear people say the president has been ‘in office’ for a year (or however long).
The term ‘in the office’ refers to someone being physically located in an office.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘office’ as “a special duty, charge, or position conferred by an exercise of governmental authority and for a public purpose: a position of authority to exercise a public function and to receive whatever emoluments may belong to it,” “a position of responsibility or some degree of executive authority,” “a prescribed form or service of worship,” “a religious or social ceremonial observance: rite,” “something that one ought to do or must do: an assigned or assumed duty, task, or role,” and “ a place where a particular kind of business is transacted or a service is supplied.”
The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “a room or part of a building in which people work, especially sitting at tables with computers, phones, etc., usually as a part of a business or other organization,” “a place where you can go to ask advice or receive treatment from a doctor or dentist,” and “a position of authority and responsibility in a government or other organization.”
Some terms you might’ve heard that include the word office are:
The phrases ‘at the office' and 'in the office’ are prepositional phrases because they contain the prepositions ‘at’ and ‘in.’
To refresh your memory, a prepositional phrase is a group of words that modify a verb or noun. They usually show direction, time, place, location, or spatial relationships or introduce an object.
Now that you know that you can use both phrases and you're clear on the definition of 'office,' we can view some examples of how to use both correctly.
Let’s take a look at how to use ‘at the office’ correctly in a sentence:
Now, let’s see how to use ‘in the office’ correctly in a sentence:
Remember that no matter which term you're using, your sentence has to make sense (i.e., subject-verb agreement, etc.). In a lot of cases, the phrases could be used interchangeably (like ‘tires’ and ‘tyres’), but not in every case.
If you’re not sure about which to use, you can always come back here and check out our library of confusing words, where we cover phrases like ‘at the weekend/on the weekend’, ‘in which/of which/at which,’ and ‘in the summer/in summer.’