Difference between the prepositions IN and ON

Finished watching the video, now its time to test what you have learned.

There was a dog sitting __________ the middle of the street.


She keeps a cool head __________ an emergency.


We go to the cinema once or twice a month __________ average.


I prefer to use internet __________ my own time.


I often buy a magazine to read __________ the train.


Suddenly it dawned __________ me why she was so angry.


Miguel was __________ the phone for ages last night.


Christian is always __________ trouble with his parents.


I would say that __________ balance you’ve made the right decision.


Brian isn’t very keen __________ seafood.


There have been great improvements __________ public transport in the last few years.


I’m not interested __________ accounting at all, I’m afraid.


Don’t worry. I’m __________ your side.


The Fallas festival in Valencia is __________ March.


Maggie! It’s Sue __________ the line for you.


A Beautiful Mind is based __________ a true story.


It’s not a bad movie __________ the whole.


We arrived just __________ time to catch the 08:12 train.


She’s very reliable. She always arrives exactly __________ time.


There was a lot of rubbish __________ the street.


What’s __________ TV tonight?


I know that word. It’s __________ the tip of my tongue.


Question 1 of 22

Prepositions are one of the most hated parts of speech. Even experienced writers are sometimes uncomfortable using them. Often people are confused with similar prepositions particularly the prepositions IN and ON.

More often than not, either IN or ON can be grammatically correct. It entirely depends what you really mean in your statements. Here are some few guidelines on how to use these two most commonly misused prepositions:

It is advisable to use IN when you are indicating a position for spaces with limitations. IN is used to convey that something is contained or inside. For example,

– The bee is in the beehive.
– The mail in the mailbox.
– The file is in the disk.

Alternatively, ON is used to denote a position for surfaces or a position just above or outside an area. Example,

– The book is placed on the table.
– Charlie sat on the stool.
– Jane had a tattoo on his arm.

IN is used to denote a moment enclosed in time. It is therefore used with other parts of the day, with months, with years, with seasons. Some examples of these are,

– I like to drink coffee in the morning.
– Andreaìs wedding is on October.
– A lot of terrorist activities happened in 2001.
– The flowers will bloom in spring.

ON is used with days and dates. Also, it may be used in special parts of the day and special holidays. Distinctively, ON is used when you do not enclose something — time included ñ it is with relative specificity.

– I’ll see you on Friday!
– My retirement is effective on June 23.
– The event happened on the morning of January 14.
– We look for colourful eggs on Easter Sunday.

ON is used with street names. Conversely, IN is used with names of cities, towns, provinces, states, and countries.

– I’m on Elm street, meet me here Freddie.
– Jiu-jitsu is big in Brazil.
– There are so many celebrities in California!
There are some special considerations of using these two prepositions and it would be best to learn them from experience.

1. IN is used when you are referring something enclosed by limitations while using IN is relatively specific and does not denote anything enclosed.
2. IN is used to denote a location of something inside a space while on generally, denotes something above a surface or within proximity.
3. Whether it is used with place or time, normally, IN is general as compared to the specific implications of ON.

1 comment

  • Hi Ceema, I did the test and after that I still been dubious about using prepositions with ambiguous nouns like word “TIME” or “Emergency”. ei. One of the questions was… She keeps a cool head IN an emergency. Why should I use IN? Emergency is enclosed? I do not know how to do this rightly.

    Other example.. I prefer to use internet IN my own Time…. However another sentence is…, She’s very reliable. She always arrives exactly ON time. Can you see my confusión? Thank you very much for your clarification.

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