'At the Office' or 'In the Office': Which is Correct?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on November 4, 2022

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.

‘In’ or ‘At the Office’ in English Grammar

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’ vs. ‘In the Office’ vs. ‘At the 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.

You can also say a person is ‘at the office,’ which also means they’re physically located in an office. This term is similar to terms like ‘associated to/associated with’ and ‘relate to/relate with

Definition and Meaning

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:

  • Home Office
  • Office Building
  • Post Office
  • Doctor’s Office
  • Dentist’s Office
  • Office Management
  • Patent Office

Understanding Prepositions

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.

Examples of Prepositional Words and Phrases

  • Next to the desk
  • Over the bridge
  • At the Park
  • In the closet
  • With excitement
  • Behind the fence
  • In the middle
  • Across town
  • Near the bakery
  • Toward the school
  • Beside the stairs
  • Outside
  • From
  • In front of

How to Use ‘At the Office’ and ‘In the Office’ Correctly in a Sentence

 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:

  • I’m going to be at the office late tonight.
  • The TV show The Office takes place in an actual office setting.
  • I love being at the office early before anyone gets there.
  • I left my laptop at the office this afternoon.

Now, let’s see how to use ‘in the office’ correctly in a sentence:

  • I’m currently in the office, still working.
  • I don’t want to be in the office too late tonight – I have plans later.
  • I work in an office with ten other people.
  • My home office is kind of messy; I should probably clean it today.

Concluding Thoughts on ‘At the Office’ and ‘In the Office’

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.’

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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