Today we will learn something about the word “arrive”. I will tell you when to say “arrive at” and when to say “arrive in”. And I will also tell you that you must never say “arrive to”!
Kevin and Joanne are going to visit their friend Amy, who lives in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland. They arrange when they will come, but then need to decide how to travel. Kevin does not want to drive. It is a long way, and there are roadworks on the M6 motorway which will cause delay, frustration and bad temper. (There are always roadworks on the M6 – it is part of the traditional British way of life). So they decide to take the train. Now, in Britain train fares are often very expensive unless you buy your tickets at least a week before you travel. Kevin is lucky – he finds some cheap tickets on the internet.
On Friday, Kevin and Joanne set off; they take a bus and arrive at the railway station. Miraculously their train is on time. Four hours later they arrive in Glasgow. They take a taxi and arrive at Amy’s flat at about 4pm.
On the way home they are not so lucky. When they arrive at Glasgow Central station, they find that their train is late. Moreover, one of the carriages is missing, so the train is overcrowded and some passengers have to stand for their journey. The train arrives in Birmingham, at New Street Station, about an hour late.
The rule with “arrive” is this. If we are talking about a big place – a country or a town for instance – then we say arrive in. For example:
Kevin and Joanne arrive in Scotland.
They arrive in Glasgow.
They arrive back in Birmingham.
But when we are talking about a small place, an individual house or building, for example, we say arrive at. For example:
Kevin and Joanne arrive at the railway station.
They arrive at Amy’s flat.
They arrive at the airport.
The children arrive at school.
Some English learners say “arrive to”. For example, “I arrive to Paris tomorrow”. This is wrong. You should say “I arrive in Paris tomorrow” (“Arrive in” because Paris is a big place).
You will sometimes hear people say “I arrived at Birmingham at 3pm” or “I arrive at Paris in the afternoon”. Is this OK? Surely they should say “in Birmingham” and “in Paris”? Well, it is OK if they are saying “Birmingham” to mean “Birmingham railway station” or “Paris” to mean “Paris airport”.
I know that this is complicated. But do not despair. Remember that you can use get to instead of “arrive in / at”. Kevin and Joanne get to the railway station, they get to Glasgow, they get to Amy’s flat, they get to the airport, Kevin gets to work, the children get to school. It is always “get to”. Easy. English people use expressions with “get” all the time, so it is a good idea to practice using them.
Trains in Britain are often overcrowded, but not generally as overcrowded as the one in the picture above.