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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 9th, 2012, 06:08 am
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Default in or at

what is the difference between "at" and "in". e.g. i say "in school"or "at school" or "in home" or "at home"? i've got another question: for making question can we say "have you got money?" or i have to say "have you got any/some/little ... money?" am i permitted to use a noun without any quantifier? i'll thank you.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 9th, 2012, 06:50 am
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Default Re: in or at

For the first question :

You can't always use in/at as alternatives. For instance *in home is incorrect. However, in general, when they are alternatives, at is more general - I know approximately where the person is, but not exactly. So if eg someone had gone to meet a friend off a train :

- Where's Chris.
- She's at the station.


Here, the speaker doesn't know if she really is in the station (ie inside). He might be - eg in the waiting room of the coffee bar. But he might also be outside - eg waiting on the platform.

Compare too :
- Where's Chris?
- She's at the office / She's in the office.


If the speaker were her mother, she wouldn't know exactly where Chris was in the office where she works at the moment of speaking. She might be actually inside her office, in the corridor, in the canteen, in reception - anywhere. But now imagine that the speaker is a colleague, who saw Chris go into the office five minutes ago. He knows she really is inside a specific room - and therefore would say : She's in the office.

So in is used to mean "inside a specific room or building" while at just means generally in the location. That's why we can't say *in the home (except in the sense of a nursing Home). Home is not a specific room/building. It's a concept meaning "the place where you live". If I say that someone is at home, they could equally easily be inside the house/flat, on the balcony, in the garden, on the stairs, outside throwing away the rubbish, in the garden etc etc. If on the other hand I say that they are "in the house", then I'm am specifying a definite position inside a building.

But notice that at home doesn't use the article, whereas the other expressions >I've been choosing as examples do. Without the article, things change a bit. In/at + place usually emphasises what you're doing in the place rather than the actual location. There's another thread related to this that looks at the meanings expressed by eg He's in prison/hospital vs He's at the hospital. See : "go to work" vs "go to THE work". It also deals with in/at school.

When there isn't an article, though, it sometimes seems random as to whether in or at should be used. So eg :
prison/hospital/bed - only in is possible : He's in prison/hospital/bed.
work - only at is possible : She's at work
school - both in and at are possible : We learnt it in/at school
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Last edited by susan53 : Jan 9th, 2012 at 12:02 pm.
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Unread Jan 9th, 2012, 07:13 am
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Default Re: in or at

With regard to your second question - I'm not sure if you're asking about a) the word money in particular, b) about uncountable nouns, or c) about all nouns. However, if (a) or (b) - yes, it's fine without a quantifier. You can often check if something is said just by googling the phrase. If it comes up regularly on British/Australian/Canadian/American etc etc websites, you know it's used frequently.

Personally, I'd tend to use the quantifier if I wanted to know if someone actually had cash on them at that moment - eg if my son was going out I might say : Have you got some money? / Take some money with you or Do you need any money?

The same for other uncountable nouns - eg if I was cooking in someone else's kitchen, I think I'd say Have you got any/some rice? rather than just Have you got rice? But it's perfectly possible without the quantifier.

And in other contexts it sounds better without the quantifier :

Here are some examples I found on Google :

Have you got money owed to you?
If you're owed money...
Does someone owe you money...
Do you have money invested in the stock market?
Have you got money invested in that movie?


In all of these examples a quantifier would be possible - some, any, a lot of, a little etc. I'd suggest it's omitted because the speaker's focus is not on the quantity - it doesn't matter how much, whereas if I want to know about my son/the rice, the quantity is important - I need to know that he's got enough money to do what he wants, or there's enough rice to cook what I want. So the concept of quantity is implicit and leads to me choosing to use the quantifier.
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Unread Jan 10th, 2012, 03:21 am
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Default Re: in or at

thank you so much for your perfect answer. actually i don't mean just "money"but other countable words such as:children. is it correct not to use quantifiers and say :have you got children?
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Unread Jan 10th, 2012, 07:14 am
Sue
 
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Default Re: in or at

Same as above. With uncountable/plural nouns, where implicitly I want to know "how many", then I'd use the quantifier. Think how the conversation would naturally develop - the reply would almost certainly specify the number :
- Have you got any children?
- Yes, a son and two daughters 7 No, none


It's only where the number is irrelevant that I think I would drop the quantifier :

Have you got children? Omega 3 Fatty Acids are an essential part of their diet.
Have you got children at University? Please help me with my survey ..


That's how I think I would use it (and I suspect many other people). However, Google it and you will often find the quantifier dropped in implicit "how many" contexts too:

Objectives of the research : To gain insight into the feelings and experiences of midwives who do not have children of the effects of a negative response to the question, 'Have you got children?', on the midwife's perception of herself in the midwife/mother relationship and to formulate strategies which promote successful midwife/mother relationships.

Two points about this : a) it's formal written English rather than the conversational style that I've used in my example; b) it's from an Australian site. In other words, variety of English may come into play here, and the choice of quantifier/no quantifier may be affected not just by meaning (as I've argued) but also by stylistic or regional variety.
You'd need to do some research with a corpus to decide definitively which of the three factors are most relevant.
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