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

(Last Updated: 23 May 2024)


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.

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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

(Source: Quick Drills for English Exams (4B))


(Source: 易進中學英文文法全書1)

(Source: Pan Lloyds 26-Week English Consolidation Practice: Grammar (5A))

(Source: Quick Drills for English Exams (1B))

(Source: Quick Drills for English Exams (3B))

1. The word Class is capitalised in the salutation Dear Class because it is used as a proper noun, representing a specific group of people, much like a name. 
2. In the party is often used when you are referring to someone or something being an integral part of the party or within the party organisation. For example, when someone says He is a key figure in the party, the word party usually refers to a political party. At the party is typically used when you are referring to an event, such as a birthday party or, in this case, a Christmas party. Therefore, when you are talking about the presence of something like food and drinks, or an action happening during the event, at the party is the more appropriate choice.
(Source: English Smart Class Weekly Language Practices (2B))

(Source: St. Paul's Primary Catholic School)
(Also by the Same School: 1/2)

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. The past simple should be used because the events took place in the past.
2. Although this is the first time for someone to do something may not be grammatically incorrect, it is not the most idiomatic or natural way to express this idea in English.
3. When referring to being present and participating in a social gathering, we say at the party, not in the party.
4. It is not customary to put fictional characters in quotation marks; capitalising them is sufficient.
(Source: Pui Ching Primary School)

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.
(Source: DSE英語救亡手册) 

1. From is the correct preposition to use with absence. Therefore, if you could not attend a birthday party, you would say I'm sorry for my absence from your birthday party, which means you were not there. On the other hand, if you were there, you would use at, as in I was happy to be at your birthday party. Saying in your birthday party is a common mistake among learners.
2. The construction wish you have is not grammatically correct. When we use the verb wish to express our hope that something good will happen to someone, we follow the pattern wish someone something.
(Source: Integrated English Practice for Junior Forms, Book 1)

1. The preposition at is the correct choice when talking about being present at events such as parties. Therefore, the correct phrasing is I saw them at the party, not in the party.
2. The pronoun it is inappropriate in this context: Tony cannot have the exact same cup of coffee as Raymond. Instead, Tony could say I want one too or I also want one, where one refers to another cup of coffee.
(Source: English Examiner for Junior Forms, Book 1B)
(Also by the Same Author: 1/2/3/4/5)

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