Difference Between In and On

Prepositions are words or collections of words that are applied before a noun, pronoun, or phrase to indicate the direction, spot, time, or to inject an object. The most commonly used prepositions are “in”, “on”, and “of”. Students find prepositions very complex and difficult to understand.

In vs On

The main difference between ‘in’ and ‘on’ is that we need to use the word ‘in’ when we are speaking about a state in which something is embedded by some other thing whereas if we talk about ‘on’ it means we are talking about a condition where an object is located or placed over or outside some other object.

In vs On

‘In’ is used to indicate that some object is stored or is inside some other object. For example:

  1. The document is in the desk.
  2. The insect is in the hive.

‘In’ is also used to indicate a consequence included in time.

  1. I like to eat food in the evening.
  2. Sanjay’s birthday is in August.

‘On’ is used to designate a position for the surface on which the object is placed. For example:

  1. Rahul sat on the chair.
  2. The charger is placed on the desk.

‘On’ is also used for specifying a specific day or date. It may also be used to indicate a special event or program. For example:

  1. My Engagement is on September 22.
  2. We shall meet you on Saturday!

Comparison Table Between ‘In’ and ‘On’

Parameters of ComparisonIn On
Definition‘In’ refers to a Preposition that is generally used to show a condition when an object is surrounded by another object.‘On’ refers to a Preposition that is used to indicate an event when an object is placed above another object.
Usage by placeName of city, state, and nation.It is only used for indicating places like street names.
Usage by TimeIt is used for indicating months, years, season, century, and decades.It is used for indicating normal days, dates, and specific events.
Example of Usage by placeAhmed lives in Florida, America.Anuj is on his way to Chennai.
Example of usage by timeTitanic was released in the year 1996.John will meet Michael on Thursday.

What is ‘In’?

‘In’ can be categorized as a Noun, Adjective, Adverb, and most importantly a Preposition. ‘In’ can be said to be a noun if it is utilized to denote support or an ability to influence. For example, Kirti is in with Mr. Kumar because she was married to Mr. Kumar’s son.

‘In’ can also be considered to be an Adverb in certain cases if it is used to transform a verb or an adjective. For example:

  • The Prime Minister of the country walked in.
  • Please, mix in the milk and water.

‘In’ can also be categorized as an Adjective when it is used to represent a noun or a pronoun. For instance:

  • It is what the in custom Audience buying this month.
  • Mr. Sharma is in the house.

‘In’ many times, in general, is classified under Prepositions, when it is used to indicate a duration of the season, indicate a location, indicate that an object is inside another object. ‘In’ as a preposition is used to indicate a position, a period of time, used as a means to indicate a medium. For example:

  • They both met each other in 1988.
  • Reema got wounded in the arm.

What is ‘On’?

‘On’ can be categorized as Adverbs, Adjectives, and most importantly Prepositions. In addition to all of these ‘on’ is also put after some verbs, nouns, and even adjectives. Firstly, if an object is on the surface or on another object, then the surface is automatically under the given object. For example:

  • Andrew is sitting beside David on the Bed.
  • On the Dining table were baskets piled high with fruits and vegetables.
  • The audience looked at the musician with a guilt expression on their face.

Examples of ‘on’ as an Adverb are:

  • Garima put her hat on while Akash opened the main gate.
  • Preeti told Mayank that she would be not joining him as she has a lot on in the next month.

Examples of ‘on’ as an Adjective are:

  • There’s an amazing match on at the World cup at the present moment.
  • Every year the commitee used to put a drama on at Kings College, London.

Main Differences Between ‘In’ and ‘On’

  1. ‘In’ refers to a preposition, that indicates an event in which an object is enclosed by another object or thing whereas ‘on’ refers to a preposition, that indicates an event when an object is in contact with the body of another given object.
  2. If we talk about usage by time then ‘In’ is used for describing about months, years, decades, seasons and centuries. ‘On’ is used for indicating and putting emphasises on a particular date or an event.
  3. If we talk about usage by place then ‘In’ is used for describing and specifying the name of a city, town, state and country, whereas if we talk about ‘on’, it is used for indicating a specific street, road and bridge.
  4. ‘In’ is used as prepositions, adverb, adjective and pronoun. ‘On’ is used mainly as prepositions but sometimes also used as adverbs and adjectives.
  5. Reema and Rohan met each other in 2014 is an example of ‘in’, whereas Reema and Rohan met each other on Monday last week is an example of ‘on’.


The application of prepositions is one of the most difficult and tricky parts of the English Language, how to apply ‘on’ and ‘in’ is also one of the problems which most of the students face but before understanding the application of these prepositions one must know about their uses first.

All the students and even some teachers face immense problems in filling up the right prepositions in the sentences. In order to improve and be confident about the application of prepositions, one must practice sentences on a day-to-day basis and communicate in English with other people.

There is also no particular rule or formula for choosing the correct preposition so in order to be more effective with the use of prepositions, one must practice more and more to achieve perfection over its use.


  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-child-language/article/learning-to-use-prepositions-a-case-study/5DD9102F0B6BC31CF50ABA9DA936C7AF
  2. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9783110847420.229/html
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