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swimming at the river

hirashin

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Dear native English speakers,

(1a) My son is swimming in the river.
(1b) My son is swimming at the river.

(2a) They are eating/having lunch in the park now.
(2b) They are eating/having lunch at the park now.

I think (a) would be common. But do you ever say (b)?

Hirashin
 

Lothor

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2(b) is definitely OK.
1(b) probably wouldn't be said if you were near the river, where it might be possible to literally see your son IN the river, but if you and a friend were, say, at home, 'at the river' would be OK.
 

johnnyG

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Different uses/contexts, either in or at is okay.

Probably you know, but keep other locations in mind:

river --> pool, quarry, ocean, lake, reservoir, lagoon... In this set, ocean differs. You can go swimming in the ocean, but if using at you'd probably switch to "at the beach."

I think the uses are overlapping, but at seems to answer the question, "Where do you want to go (did you go) ~?" In seems to answer the question, "Where is he ~?"
 

hirashin

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Thanks for the help, Lothor, johnnyG, and mdchachi.
Hmm...Prepositions are difficult to use.

About 2a and 2b, is there a difference in meaning or nuance between them?
 

mdchachi

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About 2a and 2b, is there a difference in meaning or nuance between them?
"in the park" unambiguously says they are inside the park.
Since they are eating, "at the park" would likely also be understood to be inside the park. But it could also mean outside the park like in the parking lot or entrance area.
 

hirashin

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Oh, I see. Thanks for the detailed information, mdchachi.
 
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