“In” is basically within, inside a container or box, maybe an enclosed space but not necessarily.
“On” is related to surfaces.
You can use “in” or “on” in the same sentence, but the meaning would change.
The Rules for The Prepositions “In” and “On”
“In” is used with months, seasons, years, towns, countries, cities, and other items where we can imagine an enclosed area.
“On” is used with days, dates and where we can imagine a surface area.
We use both “in” and “on” in many idioms and phrasal verbs. I will include some bonus idioms at the end of this lesson, but keep in mind there are many of them!
Now let’s take a look at some examples.
Like most people, I have 2 eyes, 1 nose and 1 mouth on my face.
I never want to get a tattoo on my face, but I do have 1 tattoo on my body.
I have hair on my head, and curls in my hair.
My shirt has a nice pattern on it.
I’m wearing earrings in my ears.
Should I get a piercing in my nose?
Time & Dates
On time – agreed upon meeting time, for work, to catch a train, etc.
In time – surprise, you’re late, but just in time to catch the ending!
On the hour means exactly at the hour like 9am, but otherwise we use at for specific times, that’s another lesson!
Duration = in… in a few minutes, we’ll practice all this with a quiz.
My birthday is on Feb 24th. That’s in February. Wouldn’t you like to know in which year?
Remember “in” a month (without date), because there are many dates within a month.
In the car, in taxi, in the van but
on the train, on the plane, on the bus
I have hundreds of emails in my inbox.
I am working on a special project.
Let’s meet in the meeting room.
Locations & Topics
In a house, in a room but on the floor, on the roof, on the wall.
I don’t have anything on my wall!
Do you want to live in the United States?
Do you want to live in Miami?
I live on Main Street.
The kids are playing in the street.
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Bonus – Some common phrases using “in” and “on“
Watch the video or listen to the podcast to hear all the definitions and examples with how to use each one!
In a bad way
In a pinch
In a nutshell
In a sense
In a state
In a New York minute
In my head
On my mind
On the other hand
On your mark
On your terms
On your toes
On your own
On your side