• English Prepositions: The Difference Between In and On

    As always, I learn the most about teaching English from my students. Last week a student from Brazil asked me for help with his prepositions in English. Prepositions are considered one of the most difficult aspects of learning English and many other languages, partially because it can appear that there are no clear rules for their use.

    My student pointed this out by asking why we say, that we read something on the internet, but in a book. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer.

    English Prepositions – In or On?

    After talking about this with some of our other LOI English teachers, we came to see the pattern. We read something in an object that can be physically opened, like a book or a newspaper. We read something on anything that can’t be physically opened, such as the internet, a sign, or a particular page of a book i.e. “I read it on page five.”

    The conversation with my student went on to prepositions regarding places and time. Why do we say I live in Montana, but on 8th Street? Why do we meet at 5 pm but in 1996.

    There is a mostly logical way of remembering this. Basically, it depends on size or detail. For very definite places and times, we say at. For instance: Let’s meet at 5 pm. or Let meet at the bar.

    For a little less definite times and places, we say on, this specifically applies to street names and days of the week. For instance: Let’s meet on 8th Street. or Let’s meet on Monday.

    And for much less specific places and times, such as states, countries, months and years, we use in. For instance: We met in California. or We met in 1998.

    Ok, that’s all for now. I hope this helps you clear up some issues with English prepositions. If you’d like to take an English lesson with us on prepositions, or any other subject, please contact us.

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