Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between IN and ON

The prepositions “in” and “on” are essential components of English grammar, each serving distinct purposes to convey location, time, or relationships. 

Understanding their differences is crucial for precise and effective communication.


The preposition “in” is a versatile linguistic tool, fundamental in conveying a sense of location within a defined space or expressing inclusion within a specific period. Its usage extends to various contexts, adding depth and precision to our language.

One primary application of “in” is to denote physical location within an enclosed or defined space. When we refer to tangible places or environments, “in” is employed to signify being inside or surrounded by something. 

Consider the example: 

“She is in the room, studying for her exams.” 

In this instance, the preposition “in” conveys that she is physically located inside the room, immersed in the task of studying. It creates a spatial relationship, indicating her presence within the confines of the room.

Similarly, “in” is adept at illustrating containment or enclosure. 

In the sentence, “The book is in the bag,” the preposition “in” communicates that the book is enclosed within the bag. This application of “in” emphasizes the idea of being within a specific object or container, enhancing clarity and precision in our descriptions.

Beyond spatial relationships, “in” is a valuable tool for expressing time frames, especially when discussing longer and more extended periods. 

For example, “We’ll meet in the afternoon to discuss the project.” Here, “in” is employed to indicate a broader time frame—the afternoon. It allows us to convey a sense of inclusivity within the entire span of that part of the day. The use of “in” for time frames contributes to the temporal richness of our language, enabling us to articulate durations and moments with specificity.

Furthermore, “in” provides a nuanced temporal dimension by suggesting immersion or involvement within a particular duration. Unlike more specific prepositions like “on” or “at,” “in” is adept at capturing the expansiveness of time. It enables us to discuss not just specific points but entire intervals, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of temporal relationships.

Therefore, the preposition “in” is a versatile linguistic tool that plays a crucial role in expressing location within spaces, indicating containment, and conveying inclusive time frames. Its multifaceted usage allows us to navigate the complexities of spatial and temporal relationships, adding depth and precision to our communication. As we explore its applications, we uncover the richness and flexibility that “in” brings to our language, making it an indispensable element in our everyday expressions.

Let’s look at more examples where “in” is used, enhancing the precision and depth of language.

Location within a Space:

The cat is sleeping in the cozy bed.

In this scenario, “in” signifies the specific location of the cat, emphasizing that it is nestled inside the confines of the cozy bed. This usage of “in” provides a spatial relationship, allowing us to visualize the cat’s position within the comfort of its sleeping space.

Enclosure within an Object:

I found my keys in the jacket pocket.

Here, “in” conveys the idea that the keys are contained within the jacket pocket. The preposition illustrates a clear relationship between the keys and the enclosure provided by the pocket, aiding in precise communication about the location of the found items.

Membership or Involvement:

She is currently in the chess club at school.

The use of “in” in this context signifies her active membership or involvement within the chess club. It communicates her participation in a specific group or activity, contributing to a sense of belonging and engagement.

Specific Periods of Time:

The concert will take place in the evening.

In this example, “in” is employed to denote a specific period of time—the evening—when the concert is scheduled to occur. This use of “in” adds temporal precision, allowing for effective planning and communication of event timings.

Surrounded by Nature:

They went for a hike in the lush forest.

The preposition “in” here indicates their presence within the natural surroundings of the lush forest. It conveys a spatial relationship, highlighting their immersion in the beauty of the wooded environment.

Contained within a Container:

There are fresh vegetables in the refrigerator.

This usage of “in” emphasizes the containment of fresh vegetables within the refrigerator. It communicates the spatial arrangement of items within a designated container, facilitating clarity in everyday descriptions.

Immersed in an Activity:

He is engrossed in reading a captivating novel.

In this instance, “in” is used to express his deep involvement or immersion in the activity of reading. It goes beyond physical location to convey a state of absorption or focus within the chosen pursuit.

Inclusion within a Category:

The book is classified in the fantasy genre.

The preposition “in” is utilized here to indicate the categorization of the book within the fantasy genre. This application of “in” highlights its role in expressing inclusion within broader classifications.

Within the Boundaries of a City or Country:

They live in New York City.

The use of “in” in this context specifies the location of their residence within the boundaries of New York City. It denotes a broader spatial relationship, indicating the city as their place of dwelling.

Expression of Emotion or State:

She is always in a cheerful mood.

In this example, “in” is used to convey her perpetual state of cheerfulness. It expresses an emotional or psychological condition, showcasing the adaptability of “in” in capturing nuanced aspects of human experiences.


The preposition “on” serves as a versatile linguistic tool, often employed to convey surface contact, pinpoint specific points in time, or denote active participation in events. Its applications are diverse, enriching our language by adding layers of meaning to our expressions.

One fundamental use of “on” is to indicate physical contact with a surface. When we discuss the placement of objects or entities, “on” is the go-to preposition for illustrating surface relationships. Take, for instance, the sentence: “The coffee cup is on the table.” In this scenario, “on” denotes the precise location of the coffee cup—it is in direct contact with the surface of the table. This usage of “on” provides a clear spatial relationship, offering a visual understanding of the object’s position in relation to the surface it occupies.

Moving beyond spatial relationships, “on” is frequently employed to specify particular points in time. In the sentence, “The presentation is on Monday,” the preposition “on” precisely indicates the day when the presentation is scheduled to occur. This application of “on” adds temporal specificity, allowing us to communicate time-bound events with clarity and precision. The use of “on” in temporal contexts contributes to effective planning and coordination by providing a concrete reference point in the calendar.

Moreover, “on” serves as a key preposition when describing participation in events or activities. In the example, “She is on the team,” the preposition “on” is used to convey active membership or participation in a specific group—the team. This application extends to various contexts, such as being on a committee, on a project, or on a panel, indicating an individual’s involvement or affiliation with a particular endeavor. The use of “on” in this sense fosters a sense of belonging and engagement within a collective effort.

The versatility of “on” extends to its ability to signify not just physical contact but active involvement in diverse situations. Whether pinpointing a specific day in the calendar or expressing participation in a team or activity, “on” offers a nuanced and comprehensive way to articulate relationships and engagements.

Therefore, the preposition “on” is a dynamic element in our language, adept at indicating surface contact, specifying points in time, and describing active participation in events or activities. Its diverse applications enrich our expressions, providing a nuanced understanding of spatial, temporal, and relational contexts. As we explore the varied uses of “on,” we discover its invaluable role in enhancing the precision and depth of our communication.

Let’s explore the rich usage of “on” through the following examples, each illustrating a distinct facet of its functionality.

Surface Contact:

The coffee cup is on the table.

In this scenario, “on” is used to indicate the direct surface contact between the coffee cup and the table. The preposition establishes a clear spatial relationship, conveying the physical placement of the cup upon the flat surface of the table.

Temporal Specificity:

The meeting is scheduled on Monday.

Here, “on” denotes a specific point in time—Monday—indicating when the meeting is scheduled to take place. This application of “on” adds temporal precision, allowing for effective planning and communication of event timings.

Participation in an Event or Activity:

She is on the organizing committee for the charity event.

The preposition “on” is employed to express active participation or membership in the organizing committee for a charitable event. It conveys involvement in a specific group or activity, contributing to a sense of responsibility and engagement.

Position or Placement:

The painting is on the wall in the living room.

In this example, “on” signifies the position or placement of the painting. It communicates the relationship between the artwork and the vertical surface of the wall within the living room.

Attached or Affixed:

The note is on the refrigerator door.

The use of “on” indicates that the note is attached or affixed to the surface of the refrigerator door. This application conveys a sense of the note’s physical connection with the door.

Travel or Movement:

They are on the train heading to the city.

In this instance, “on” is utilized to express their mode of transportation—on the train. It conveys their position within the moving vehicle as they travel towards the city.

Broadcasting or Communication Mediums:

The show is on the radio at 8 PM.

The preposition “on” is applied here to indicate the broadcasting medium—on the radio. It specifies where the show can be accessed, providing information about the channel of communication.

Functioning or Operational State:

The computer is on, ready for use.

In this context, “on” signifies the operational state of the computer. It indicates that the device is powered up and in a functional mode, prepared for use.

Supported by a Surface:

The book is on the shelf.

The use of “on” here communicates the relationship between the book and the supporting surface of the shelf. It illustrates the book’s position within the storage space.

Indicating Specific Dates:

The project deadline is on the 15th of this month.

The preposition “on” in this example denotes the specific date—on the 15th of the month—when the project deadline is scheduled. It adds temporal specificity to the communication of deadlines.

Summary of difference between IN and ON

In summary, the distinction between “on” and “in” lies in their specific applications within spatial, temporal, and relational contexts.

  • “In” is often used to convey being inside or enclosed by a defined space, indicating physical location within a space or containment within an object. Additionally, “in” is employed to express broader time frames, especially for longer durations.
  • “On,” on the other hand, typically indicates surface contact, specifying a point in time, or denoting active participation in events or activities. It is used to describe placement on a surface, specify particular days or moments, and convey membership or involvement in various endeavors.

These prepositions play crucial roles in enhancing the precision and clarity of our language, allowing us to articulate spatial relationships, temporal specifics, and active engagements effectively. Understanding their nuanced differences ensures accurate and effective communication in various contexts.


Q: When should I use “in” and “on” for spatial relationships?

A: Use “in” when referring to something inside or within a space. Use “on” when indicating something on a surface.

Q: How do I use these prepositions to talk about time?

A: Use “in” for longer periods or general times, and “on” for specific dates or days.

Q: Can you provide examples of “in” for time and dates?

A: Certainly! “In the morning,” “In July,” “In the 21st century.”

Q: What about “on” for time and dates?

A: Examples include “On Monday,” “On my birthday,” “On January 1st.”

Q: How do I express involvement or participation with these prepositions?

A: Use “in” for participation in activities, groups, or events. Use “on” for specific committees, teams, or roles.

Q: Can you give examples of “in” for involvement?

A: Certainly! “In a club,” “In the band,” “In the school play.”

Q: And examples of “on” for involvement?

A: Examples include “On the committee,” “On the team,” “On the board.”

Q: When talking about locations within a city or country, which preposition do I use?

A: Use “in” for larger areas like cities or countries.

Q: How about expressing position or placement?

A: Use “in” for the position inside something, and “on” for placement on a surface.

Q: Can you provide examples for “in” and “on” regarding position?

A: Certainly! “In the box,” “In the drawer” (inside). “On the table,” “On the shelf” (surface).

Q: How do I use “in” and “on” when discussing transportation?

A: Use “on” for public transportation or vehicles like buses and trains. Use “in” for private transportation or enclosed spaces like cars.

Q: Can you provide examples of “on” for transportation?

A: Certainly! “On the bus,” “On the plane,” “On the subway.”

Q: And examples of “in” for transportation?

A: Examples include “In the car,” “In a taxi,” “In the boat.”

Q: How do these prepositions differ when talking about books or movies?

A: Use “in” when discussing the content of a book or movie. Use “on” when referring to the physical copy or screen.

Q: Can you give examples for “in” and “on” regarding books and movies?

A: Certainly! “In the book,” “In the movie” (content). “On the shelf,” “On the screen” (physical form).

Q: When expressing emotions, which preposition should I use?

A: Use “in” for emotions or moods.

Q: Can you provide examples of “in” for expressing emotions?

A: Examples include “In a good mood,” “In love,” “In pain.”

Q: How about using “on” for emotions?

A: While less common, you might say “On cloud nine” or “On edge” to express specific emotional states.

Q: When discussing electronic devices, do I use “in” or “on”?

A: Use “on” when referring to the surface of the device.

Q: Can you give examples for “on” regarding electronic devices?

A: Certainly! “On the phone,” “On the computer,” “On the tablet.”

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  1. Thank you very much! I’m really confused about In and On. Again and again, thank you! 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing, The next thing i have to do is to apply it to my life . ahhihi

  3. Thank you so much. ihihi

  4. I have a little doubt. When we check a document, or a log for example, .. Do we find something ON the document or IN the document?


    • Hi
      at first thank you for this website that offers a lot to teachers same as me and my issue here is with IN and ON, Is that correct to say : read the question ( in / on )this page ….

      thanks a lot

    • what is the difference of Log in and Log on?

    • i think it’s ‘IN’ ,remember?.. when you are going to use ‘ON’ it should be outside the surface.. if you’re looking something ‘IN’ your document.. i guess the right answer is ‘IN’ bcoz you are looking for something thats inside your document.. i’m sorry about my grammar..

  5. Hi, which is correct between these two sentences: “Please post your comments IN this chatroom.” or “Please post your comments ON this chatroom.” And Why?

    • I am a native English speaker and personally think that “in a chat room sounds better” but if you were talking about a certain webpage you could say “on this page/site.” But in your specific example the difference is so subtle that I doubt anyone would notice if you said on vs in

  6. thanks so muchit helped me a lot, blessings for all:)

  7. OOPS!

    Thank you, this is very enlightening. I’ve been in the USA for more than forty years, and this still haunts me.

    Just wanted to point out that in your example [above] regarding the usage of IN, you used ON instead. It reads: “Andrea’­s wedding is on October.” (I gather there is a missing apostrophe -replaced by some other system-generated character.)

  8. Your example:

    “Andreaís wedding is on October.”

    is this correct?

  9. Are you in whatsapp??? Or
    are you on whatsapp???
    which is correct???

  10. The answer for document question
    We should use in the document,
    Not on the document because it is paper related word,

  11. Are you on whats up is correct. It is Like someone talking on mobile we ask them as who is on the line because it is a media.

  12. Apostrophe is used only with living things. We should not use with non living things.

  13. Thanks! 🙂 now I know.

  14. This has always been a headache for me. Thank you

  15. Hi I just wanted to make sure that people realized that the example “Andreaís wedding is on October” is incorrect. I’m a native English speaker and my boyfriend is a native Spanish speaker. So I understand how difficult the distinction can be. But the example should say “Andrea’s wedding is on October 10th (or any other specific day)” or “Andrea’s wedding is IN October (if you don’t want to include a specific day). You explain the distinction perfectly later on in your article! Everything else seems perfect!

  16. em is reading a book in British accent
    em is reading a book on British accent

    which is which?

  17. IN British accent sounds cooler than ON British accent.

  18. hello,
    I saw the advert placement on the internet
    I saw the advert placement in the internet

    Pls which is appropriately used?

    • I can’t explain specifically why, but I know the correct version is “ON the internet”. That’s just how I’ve heard people say it. “IN the internet” just sounds awkward to me, IMO.

  19. The question is, the state insect has the yellow in it? Could it a firefly because it has a yellow color in it..i just always get confused i dont know the different between in it and on it. Like if the question was about in it, could it be on it too?? Helpp!!

  20. thanks for this info. now I would like to know whether “shines in darkness” and “shines on darkness” are different, and how ?

  21. In the Facebook or on the Facebook
    On the website or in the website tnx

  22. Thanks for the info……..

  23. Hi all.. i will talk to you in whatsapp group or i will talk to you in whatsapp group or i will talk to you via whatsapp group? Which one is correct and why..please someone explain it. thanks in advance

  24. I’m still confused. I’m using whatsApp on the phone or I’m using whatsApp in the phone

  25. It helps me a lot. Thanks 🙂

  26. Still on high honors or
    Still in high honors

    Pls help

  27. Still on Top 3 or
    Still in Top 3

    plsss help

  28. She was on top 10
    Her birthday is coming in july
    We have a reunion on aug. 23
    We will celebrate our wedding anniv. On feb 14
    Is’t right guys???

  29. I really want to know how to speak english well anyone can help me via exchange chat or live cam

  30. In a senior position or on a senior position

  31. You look great in your weeding gown/ you look great on your weeding gown?
    Please help…

  32. I have a question. Why is it “in a rock band” but “on a soccer team”?

  33. We spell “in this day” or “on this day”?

  34. Thank you so much for thisvit helps me to understand it futher .

  35. The difference between on the day and in the day .

  36. Please I want to ask, if i say “I am in the bus” while the bus is still moving, And “I am on the bus” while the bus is moving also, which of this is correct. And I want to know the reasons please.

  37. 1. Alexander was born on rich family..
    2. Alexander was born in rich family..

    Which is the right answer?

  38. Should it be in Christmas or on Christmas

  39. Thanks a lot.

  40. Thanks for the explanation,I was not able to ans it in the interview today it was confusing.

  41. Always trust in God or on God ?

  42. Which is correct? Join us in winter wonderland or join us on winter wonderland?

  43. Can you give us more examples especially for the things like what people kept on asking here!

  44. i am sleep on bed and i am read in bed so what is different in this sentence. Both are activity on bed so tell me…..

  45. 40% of in every item? 40% of on every items?

  46. 40% off in every item? 40% off on every items?

  47. I pay a visit each day a few web pages and sites to read articles or reviews, however this website offers quality based articles.

  48. Superdry men’s Germany Trophy Series t-shirt.

  49. Quick and efficient on tills or quick and efficient in tills which is the right one

  50. …..facilities _____ the car for….


    Please tell me the best answe.

  51. In or on
    “He led a band of brothers in a daring escape.”
    Or “…. on a daring escape”.

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References :

[0]Martin, J. L. (2010). Prepositions in English: In and On. Cambridge University Press. 

[1]Celce-Murcia, M., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (1999). The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher's Course. Heinle & Heinle. 

[2]Gairns, R., & Redman, S. (2011). Oxford Word Skills: Intermediate: Idioms and Phrasal Verbs Student Book with Key. Oxford University Press. 

[3]Murphy, R. (2019). English Grammar in Use. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.org

[4]Quirk, R., & Greenbaum, S. (1973). A University Grammar of English. Pearson. Pearson

[5]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MACFv80IdoE-the-in-domain-name/

[6]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADGv_BEyi0-black-background-with-ons-text/

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