In and At 2

Previous: In and At 1

Because we use at to focus on an activity we can often use it in situations where you could talk about either the action or the location.

Jestem w pracy. / Pracuję.
I’m at work. / I’m working.

Jestem w kinie. / Oglądam film.
I’m at the cinema. / I’m watching a film.

When we are talking about work, we can also use in and at to show the difference between being there for the whole day, to do your normal work, or being there temporarily, and not for your normal work.

Jestem w pracy (i cały dzień pracuję).
I’m at work.

(Tymczasowo) jestem w pracy/biurze bo muszę podpisać ważną umowę.
I’m (temporarily) in work/the office because I have to sign an important contract.

It can sometimes be difficult to translate the difference between at and in because you might need to use a completely different sentence to describe the same situation in Polish.

Co robisz? – Jestem na przystanku i czekam na autobus/ciebie.
What are you doing? – I’m at the bus stop and waiting for a bus/you.

Gdzie jesteś? – Chowam się pod wiatą przystanku, bo mocno pada deszcz.
Where are you? – I’m in the bus shelter because it’s raining hard.

We also often use at to talk about points during a journey. This use is really a contraction of the verb arrive at. We often use at for points during a journey and use in to show that this is our final destination.

Gdzie jesteś? – Jestem w górach na nartach.
Where are you? – I’m in the mountains skiing.

Gdzie jesteś? – Już przyjechałem w góry.
Where are you? – I’m at the mountains. (I’ve just arrived at the mountains.)

Jestem we Frankfurcie. Za godzinę powinienem być w Londynie.
I’m at Frankfurt. I should be in London in about an hour.

One unusual situation is when we are talking about water e.g. rivers, lakes, seas or oceans. This difference should be easier to understand because you use different prepositions to show the same difference in Polish, as in the example below.

Kochanie. Gdzie jest samochód? – Jest w rzece. Jeśli mnie kochasz, wybaczysz mi.
Where is the car, darling? – It’s in the river. If you love me, you’ll forgive me.

Gdzie jest samochód? – Jest na parkingu nad rzeką.
Where is the car? – It’s in the car park at the river.