Question from Cathy in Canada:

Can we say I arrive to work at 9 o’clock or do we need to use “at”? Also can we say I was late to class or do we need to use “in”? Thank you.

Answer:

Hi Cathy, thanks for your question. The worst thing about prepositions is that there are no nice simple rules to let you know how to use them with certain words. Your question, Cathy, demonstrates this. In most cases you just have to learn the prepositions that go with certain words. Let’s look at your two verbs : to arrive and to be late.

Arrive‘ can be followed by several prepositions depending on what is following, look at these:

  • I arrived for work in the morning. (arrive + for where ‘work’ is a task or job to undertake)
  • I arrived at work in the morning. (arrive + at where ‘work’ is a place)
  • I arrived in time to see her. (arrive + in time where there is a temporal aspect)

So, in terms of your first question, I would say that you can use ‘for‘ or ‘at‘ depending on what sense you want to give ‘work’ (a place or a task).

Your second question with ‘to be late‘ is a bit different as I don’t think either of your options is correct.

  • I was late for class.

is the correct usage … late for something.

Hope that’s helped!

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