Difference Between In and On

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: June 06, 2023


Difference Between In and On

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In English grammar, several parts of speech are used to constitute a sentence. Some of the commonly used words in a sentence are ‘In’ and ‘On’, but some speakers might get confused while using them in their daily conversations or writing. Therefore, it is important to understand how we can correctly use them in an expression. ‘In’ and ‘On’ function as types of prepositions that are used to denote time or place in a sentence. Prepositions are the words used in sentences to indicate a place or the relationship between a noun or pronoun and the other elements of the clause.

We use ‘In’ when describing a situation where something is enclosed by another object. It expresses a sense of time and location.

For Ex-

  • Let’s get in the car!             
  • Mary is looking so pretty in these pictures from her graduation party.             
  • This is my first time visiting a museum in my 12 years of living in this city.

Whereas, the preposition "on" indicates interaction, position, or time by denoting being above or lying on a surface.

For Ex-

  • The book is lying on the table.              
  • I am on the 4th page of my essay.              
  • Your milk is kept on the table, drink it.

In vs On

The main difference to remember between ‘In’ and ‘On’ is that- we use ‘in’ when we are referring to things that are bounded by something or kept inside a surface whereas ‘on’ is used when we use the word "on," we're referring to a situation in which an object is situated over, outside of, or in front of another object. Commonly, they both are used as prepositions in a sentence.

For Ex-

  • The boss will be arriving in a few minutes.             
  • I have saved some cookies for you they are in the refrigerator.             
  • I am living in this city since my childhood.

For Ex-

  • What is kept on the table?             
  • I left my car keys on the table this morning.             
  • Sara always reaches on time at work.

Difference between ‘In’ and ‘On’ in a Tabular form

Parameters of comparisonInOn
DefinitionThe preposition “in” is frequently used to indicate a case in which something is encompassed or enclosed by another object.The preposition "on" denotes a situation in which something is placed above something else.
Used for timeIt is used to denote time in situations where we are talking about- months, years, seasons, decades, or centuries.‘On’ can also be used to denote time about Days, dates, and special events.
Used for placeAlong with time, ‘In’ can also be used to depict a location or place in a sentence such as- a town, city, state, or country.‘On’ can be used to describe a place like a street’s name.
Used asWe can use ‘In’ as a preposition, adjective as well as and adverb‘On’ can only be used as a preposition.
ExamplesShe is sitting in a metro.
Rahul lives in Mumbai.
There is no space in my phone’s gallery. There is no one in the office since morning.
She is sitting on a chair.
The laptop is there on the table. The biscuits are kept on the topmost shelf.
Let’s meet on holiday.

What does ‘In’ mean?

The preposition "in" is used to indicate that something is within of or surrounded by another thing in a closed-off area i.e., a space with real or imagined limits. It gives a sense of time and location where something is present or at what point in time. We can also use ‘in’ as an adverb or an adjective in a sentence. We use ‘In’ as an adverb when we have to modify a verb or an adjective. It is used to indicate a specific point or place in a broader space.

How and when to use ‘In’

To describe something enclosed within a specific place or object by something.

For Ex-

  • I study in a convent school.
  • My friend is waiting in the car for me.
  • What is there in the box?

To signify something kept into something.

For Ex-

  • Don’t keep all the things in this carton.
  • I should place all the eggs in the basket.
  • Put the vegetables in the bag.
  1. It denotes participation in a bigger group or anything else.

For Ex-

  • I am working in this company for the last 5 years.
  • My favorite actor plays the role of a villain in most of his movies.
  • He is working in the entertainment industry for the past 10 years.

It is used to denote the point in time.

For Ex-

  • I visited Jaipur in 2012.
  • This TV show was released in 2019.
  • I haven’t met my friends in months.

To describe different parts of a day.

For Ex-

  • Let’s meet in the evening.
  • I go for a walk in the morning.           
  • I can’t attend your function, we have a meeting in the afternoon.

But as for ‘night’, we do not use ‘in the night’ instead we use ‘at night’.

Additionally, it can also be used to denote not going over the allotted time:

For Ex-

  • Finish this meeting in the next couple of minutes.
  • Can you complete this presentation in the next 3 days?
  • The guest will arrive in a few hours.

To describe a moment or an experience.

For Ex-

  • I fell in love with your acting.
  • I was in awe after seeing Deepika Padukone’s acting in Padmavat.             
  • Jenny was in shock after she saw her results.

To express something done as a result of another event.

For Ex-

  • We received gifts in return at her birthday party.
  • I gave her flowers in return for her amazing singing.              
  • We cheered for them in return.

It is used with names of different towns, cities, countries, etc.

For Ex-

  • I used to live in Ranchi.
  • Karan traveled to France in 2015.             
  • Hitesh visited his relatives in Gujarat.         


  • I am living in this city for the last 4 years.
  • Seema lives in London since she was 5 years old.
  • Please keep these books in this box.
  • The files are saved in this folder.
  • The flowers bloom in the spring season
  • Our farewell party is in September
  • My school is in my neighborhood.
  • My friend studies in the same coaching as me.
  • Lily is one of the best stylists in this town.
  • I am waiting for you in the car, come quickly.  

What does ‘On’ mean?

When something is positioned above something else, is in direct contact with it, or is supported by something else, the word "on" is used to describe the situation. Adverbs, adjectives, and prepositions are three categories under which ‘On’ falls. Along with all of them, 'On' is also added to a few verbs, nouns, and even adjectives. Additionally, it can be used to denote a position that is above or on top of a given area. ‘On’ is used to depict a more specific location.

How and when to use ‘On’

To symbolize something being both above and in contact with something else.

For Ex-

  • The coffee mug is kept on the table.
  • I have a cut on my arm.
  • Our teacher wrote the answers on the blackboard.

To represent a connection within objects.

For Ex-

  • The painting is hung on the wall.
  • My books fell on the ground.
  • I saw a beautiful house on the road.

Indications of time, such as days, dates, and special occasions.

For Ex-

  • Me and my best friend have birthdays on the same day.
  • Let’s meet on Tuesday.
  • Are you free on the 14th of this month?

To illustrate steps or a process.

For Ex-

  • I am reaching in 5 mins I am on my way.
  • Harry is on leave today, as he is attending a marriage.             
  • Our music instructor is on his way to the practice class.

When referring to anything.

For Ex-

  • I like to read books based on real-life events.
  • Your words can have an impact on thousands of people.
  • Taylor wrote an article on social issues.

To describe a specific part of the day.

For Ex-

  • We go for a walk on Sunday mornings.
  • We left for the trip, on Tuesday afternoon.              
  • I will meet you on Monday afternoon.

Used with street names.

For Ex-

  • Meet me on last avenue street tomorrow morning.
  • I go for an evening walk on the street behind my house.             
  • Let’s meet on Park Street tomorrow.


  • The important files are kept on the desk.
  • There are so many ripe apples on the tree.
  • The boss is on an important call right now.
  • The ball hit me on my shoulder.
  • Let’s go to a party on 4th March.
  • Are you doing something special on Mother’s Day?
  • Everything was on sale when I went shopping.
  • I will sleep on your bed tonight.
  • Please mark the dates on your calendar.
  • The customer service on this plane was very satisfactory.
  • My sister is on vacation till next weekend.

Main differences between ‘In’ and ‘On’ (in points)

  1. The preposition "in" denotes a circumstance in which an item is surrounded by another. On the other hand, when something is in direct physical touch with the surface of another object, the word "on" is used.
  2. ‘In’ is commonly used while referring to months, years, seasons, etc. whereas we use ‘On’ when we are referring to specific dates, days, or any special occasion or an event.
  3. ‘In’ is used with the names of towns, cities, countries, etc. while ‘On’ is used with the names of streets.
  4. With personal vehicles like cars, we use in Ex- Sit in the car. But with public transport like buses, trains, and planes we use ‘In’. Ex- There is no AC on this bus.
  5. ‘In’ is mostly used to describe something in a general way, on the contrary, ‘On’ talks more specifically about things like at a particular location or time.
  6. Examples of ‘In’-
    • Is anyone present in the classroom?
    • The parrot is in the cage.
    • I was in a meeting when you called.
    • Most of the celebrities live in Mumbai.       
    • I kept the clothes in my wardrobe.
  7. Examples of ‘On’-
    • There is a lipstick stain on your teeth.                               
    • There is an event in our college on 3rd May.
    • There is a bug on your jacket.                               
    • Kane has a tattoo on his right arm.                               
    • The conference hall is on the top floor, come there.        


English grammar rules can be a little complex to understand at times. This includes the rules of various parts of speech such as adjectives, prepositions, verbs, adverbs, etc. But if you want to achieve proficiency while writing or speaking this language it is important to be able to use these elements in a sentence accurately. This article talks about the prepositions ‘In’ and ‘On’- their basic definitions, the key differences between them in a tabular form as well as in points, along with several different examples to understand them properly. One must first be familiar with how ‘in’ and ‘on’ are used to understand their differences. To use the terms ‘in’ and ‘on’ appropriately and confidently in phrases, there are a few guidelines that must be understood thoroughly.

The basic difference between these two words is that ‘In’ is used to describe something which is surrounded by or encompassed by another object, while ‘On’ is used to describe something kept on the surface of something else or at the top or above something in an expression. These terms are used to indicate the location or time as a preposition in a sentence.

‘In’ talks about things in a more general way without any specificity, whereas ‘On’ helps us to locate something at a particular place or a specific time, it describes events more specifically than ‘In’.

For Ex-

  • I kept my laptop and books on the table, have you seen them?              
  • I hung my favorite art piece on the wall.

For Ex-

  • I lost my important documents in the crowd             
  • There are so many options in the market to choose from.


  1. https://prowritingaid.com/in-vs-on  
  2. https://blog.knudge.me/the-difference-between-in-and-on-79458bef061  
  3. https://www.myenglishteacher.eu/blog/at-vs-in-vs-on/  
  4. https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar/prepositions/prepositions-correct-usage-of-in-and-on.html


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"Difference Between In and On." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 16 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-in-and-on>.

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