English as a Second Language/Meanings


Dear Shannon,

What is the meaning of this sentence:

"I talked to your mother and she told me you were starting at the school today."

"start at the school" means what?
I know 'to start school', 'to start a new school' .

BTW, is 'at school' British English and 'in school' American English?

I highly appreciate your precious time.

Cordial regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

Hmmm... in this case I'm not quite sure about the British and American differences.  I can tell you that in American English, it really isn't that common to hear "in school" either.  We might say, "in class," or "in the third grade," but would still likely hear "at school."

In this sentence, we have a special usage to indicate a particular school that the speaker, the mother, and the listener all know.  Therefore, we use the definite article to show that we mean this specific school.  If we used "start a new school," then the inference is that someone in the party doesn't know or isn't sure which school.  If we used "start school," then we really would have no idea if anyone knows the name of the school since we are only talking about the process of beginning classes.

English as a Second Language

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Shannon Cole


I can answer questions related to learning the English and Spanish language.


I have taught ESL and Spanish since 1998 at the university and middle school levels. I am a native of the U.S., and have taught in both the U.S. and Mexico.

I am owner and operator of www.coleinstitute.com, an online language school.

Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

B.A. in Spanish; M.Ed. in Language Education

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I have clients worldwide, some who want their documents proofread, and others who take lessons with me through the Internet. Some work at high-profile companies and government organizations. Besides the U.S. and Mexico, my recent students come from South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, Italy, Paraguay, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

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