Main Difference – In vs On
In and on are two of the most commonly used prepositions in the English language. However, they are two of the most commonly misused prepositions as well. These two prepositions tend to be confusing when they are used as prepositions of time and location. As prepositions of time, in is used with unspecific times, days, months and years whereas on is used with specific days and dates. As prepositions of place, in indicates that something is within the boundaries of an area or is contained within something else while on indicates something is at the surface of something. This is the main difference between in and on. In here, these differences in usage are explained in detail with examples.
This article covers,
Meaning and Usage of In
Meaning and Usage of On
Common Confusions – Where to use In, Where to use On
Difference Between In and On
|In vs. On | Where to use ‘In,’ Where to use ‘On’|
|Used as||Preposition, Adjective, and Adverb||Preposition and Adverb|
When within the boundaries of an area
Contained within something else
|When at the surface of something|
|Used with street names in British English||Used with street names in American English|
|Referring Time||Used with unspecific times, days, months, or years||Used with specific dates and days|
|Transportation||Used with personal transport||Used with public transport|
In – Meaning and Usage
Although in can be used as an adverb and an adjective as well, its most common usage is as a preposition. It can be used to indicate a location, time, position, state, etc. It’s these meanings related to time and location that often tend lead English learners to confuse in and on.
In can be used when the object or person described lies within the boundaries of an area or when the object is contained within something else.
They played in the garden.
She lives in a small village.
The Andersons live in Paris.
There are six bedrooms in their house.
In the last example, the bedrooms are contained within the house, thus, the preposition in can be used.
In is used as a preposition of time when a sentence doesn’t indicate a specific time. Thus, in is used with unspecific times during a day, month, season, or year.
She doesn’t brush her teeth in the morning.
The new term will start in August.
I think he was born in the late 60s.
On – Meaning and Usage
On can also be used as a preposition of location and time. Many people confuse on and in when they are describing locations and time periods.
As a preposition of place, on is used to indicate the surface of something. For example,
I kept the books on the table.
He slept on the sofa.
The frost made patterns on the window.
A sign was posted on the gate.
As a preposition of time, on is used to indicate specific times. It is specifically used with days and dates.
Her birthday is on the 22nd of June.
Do you work on Friday?
They are having a party on 6th of August.
Common Confusions – In vs On
On vs. In with transportation
On and in are both used in the prepositions get in and get on. But many people don’t know the correct usage of the two phrases.
In is used with personal modes of transport, such as car or taxi.
I got in the car.
He is already in the taxi.
On is used with public transport such as trains or buses.
He is waiting for us on the bus.
The passengers are on the plane.
In vs. On with Street Names
It is also important to notice that the confusion between on and in also occurs when we attempt to use these prepositions with street names. For example,
I live in Cavendish street.
I live on Cavendish street.
Which of the above two sentences do you think is correct? Well, it depends on the variety of English you use. Americans tend to use the preposition on with street names and British tend to use the preposition in.
Difference Between In and On
In is a preposition, adjective, and adverb.
On is a preposition and adverb.
In indicates that something lies within the boundaries of an area or is contained within something else.
On indicates something is at the surface of something.
In can be used with unspecific times, days, months, or years.
On can only be used with specific dates and days.
In is used in British English.
On is used in American English.
In is used with personal transport.
On is used with public transport.