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The answer to this question (regarding the choice of preposition for specifying a location) suggests that the preposition an would indicate the outside of an object, whereas the preposition in indicates the inside of an object. In that particular question, the object being discussed (a computer) is small and has an obvious inside and outside to the box.

Does the same conclusion (inside vs. outside) apply to the following two sentences that appear in the Goethe Institut vocabulary list for Niveau A1?

  • Die Fahrkarte bekommst du am Bahnhof.
  • Blumen kannst du in jedem Bahnhof kaufen.

Should I understand that tickets are to be purchased somewhere outside the station building but flowers are to be purchased inside the building? Or is there some other reason (perhaps stylistic) for the choice of preposition?

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    You probably mean "Blumen" - or maybe "Blümchen" (the diminutive of "Blumen"). "Blümen" is not a word.
    – bakunin
    Oct 24, 2022 at 7:24
  • @bakunin Typo! Thanks for spotting it. Oct 25, 2022 at 10:27

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I'm pretty sure the difference in this case is about the same as the difference between "in" and "at" in English. Namely, the difference isn't very big, just that "in"/"in" is a bit more explicit about being inside than "at"/"an". There are no simple rules that work all the time for the meanings of prepositions; much of the time it's situational and you have to develop a feel for it over time. There are general meanings that work in many cases, but there are also many exceptions and special cases.

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    Using "in" or "am" basically is the same as in or at in English. You could also argue that "in" refers to the building, while "am" refers to the abstract concept of an "institution". (Compare "in der Schule" to "an der Schule")
    – tofro
    Oct 24, 2022 at 8:38

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