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'In the Party' or 'At the Party'? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 17 November 2022)


In the Party or At the Party: Which One Is Correct?

The word party can mean 'a specific group of people', and if used that way, we can speak of being in a party:

How many people are in your party? (= How many people are in your group?)

I was in the party of eight people who went on holiday. (= I was in the group of eight people who went on holiday.)

We'll need to book a room as there will be twelve people in our party. (= We'll need to book a room as there will be twelve people in our group.)

However, when talking about a party celebration, we use the preposition at:

Carrie refused to dance with John at the Christmas party.
Carrie refused to dance with John in the Christmas party.

I met Anna at a Halloween party a couple of weeks ago.
I met Anna in a Halloween party a couple of weeks ago.

I have to be at my cousin's birthday party tonight.
I have to be in my cousin's birthday party tonight.

We had a good time at the party.
We had a good time in the party.

Examples from the Media

Pros: diners circle the dishes they want from the menu, choosing according to the number of people in their party—for our group of five, we had three appetisers and five mains. —South China Morning Post (2013)

From anecdotal evidence, we know that apart from Egypt and the Sudan, he also seems to have served in Cyprus and was in the party of officers that accepted the surrender of Rhodes from the Germans. BBC (2004)

The leader of the Scottish Tories said he had previously argued Johnson's position would be untenable if it was found he had been at the party, and that this had happened. —The Guardian (2022)

He was "kind of OK" with the Guvernment closing once its fate was sealed last year, he says, but he got a bit of a lump in his throat at the farewell party for the venue's 250 staff last week. —Toronto Star (2015)

Real-World Examples of Misuse





1. We use the preposition 'at' when talking about a party celebration.
2. An article is needed. Alternatively, you could say 'we travelled by minibus'.

1. Throwing snowballs is usually referred to as a snowball fight.
2. There is nothing grammatically wrong with 'acting as Santa Claus'. However, alternative words could be used instead of 'acting', such as 'dressed'. If John's boss was actually acting in a play, you could say 'acting the part of Santa Claus'.
3. The verb following 'as if' should be in the past perfect tense to convey the idea that a point about the past did not happen.
4. We say 'at the party' when 'party' refers to a social event at which people get together to have fun. 

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