Proficient IN, WITH or At? What is the correct preposition?

Proficient means to have a good level in something where you have more than intermediate skills but at the same time you are not an expert.

We usually use the preposition “in” with “proficient” but “at” and “with” can also be used.We use proficient with “at” for something specific and “in” for a general area. We use “proficient with” when describing our skills with tools. 


I am proficient in Chinese and Japanese.

They have to be proficient with knives.

She is proficient at taking down the Christmas tree.

Proficient In

We use “proficient in” when talking about a subject in general.  We often use the preposition “in” to talk about certain fields of study or disciplines.

If you are describing a subject that can be broken down into subcategories, then “in” is a better preposition to use.


He is proficient in English.

They are proficient in Math.

Proficient At

We use “proficient at” in a context where we are talking about something specific. 


He is proficient at grammar.

They are proficient at algebra.

Proficient With

We use “proficient with” when we want to describe the tools we use(especially with our hands).

He is proficient with a chainsaw.

I am proficient with Microsoft excel.

What is a better word to use than Proficient?

Proficient is a perfectly acceptable word to use especially in the contexts of language and skills. When speaking about language skills you can use upper-intermediate to show your exact level(B2 in the European Framework).

If you are writing a resumé, then “proficient” is good to use but there are some better ways to show that you have high-level skills.


Adept with Microsoft Office

Proficient with Microsoft Office

Excellent at problem solving and using Microsoft Office Products

Is Proficient a strong word? Does it indicate a high level?

“Proficient” means that you have a high level but it also recognizes that you are not an expert and there are things that you don’t know. If you say that you are an expert, then you can expect some questions in an interview. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you choose “proficient in”, “proficient at” or “proficient with” depends on you. There is not an exact grammar rule so it is important to note that people may not use the “right” preposition in the same context every time. For example, it can be very subjective to choose whether to use “with” or “in” with computer technology and both will generally be accepted.