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I have a picture with a couple sitting on a bench in the sidewalk. Can I say they're sitting on the street?

I know we can use this phrase to describe the locations of buildings relative to a steet. I googled the related pictures and pictures came up showing people sitting in an alley, people literally in the steet (maybe having suicidal thoughts) also people sitting on curbs. Is it an idiomatic expression that includes all these that is something like near or on/in any types of roads or path? If yes does it always go with the or a is also possible?

I also came across this sense which made me alittle perplexed to jump into any kind of conclusion!

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  • Related. The same advice on prepositions apply, in the main, to street and road alike.
    – Robusto
    Oct 16, 2016 at 12:39
  • @Robusto I read the answer and upvoted it because it gave me some information about walking in/along/up/down the road although it didn't particularly answer my question. So if I say they're sitting in the street they want to draw attention to themselves? I'm not sure if it applies here.
    – Yuri
    Oct 16, 2016 at 17:50
  • If you say they're sitting in the street it's different from saying they're sitting on the street. The in version would imply some disruption of normal order, whereas on would imply a natural course of action. People "hang out" on the street, but there is fighting in the street., etc.
    – Robusto
    Oct 16, 2016 at 18:28
  • The couple is sitting on the bench; the bench could be said to be on (or along) the street.
    – J.R.
    Oct 16, 2016 at 18:35
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    @Yuri - No, without the bench, they would be sitting on the sidewalk, or sitting on the curb, or sitting on the ground. Although on can be used to mean "adjacent to" or "alongside of" (as in, "That bakery sits on Main Street, right across from the deli") we wouldn't normally say that people are "sitting on the street" if they are really sitting on the side of the street. It's simply not idiomatic.
    – J.R.
    Oct 16, 2016 at 20:44

1 Answer 1

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I'm sure there's been a question asking about "on the street" versus "in the street". You can certainly be walking on the street (in which case street includes the pedestrian walkway) or in the street (in which case street refers to the area for vehicular traffic). So you can be sitting on the street; it would be understood to mean "outside the buildings in the pedestrian walkway or on the home's front steps which abut that walkway".

They sat outside on the street to see the parade.

People who are "living on the street" are homeless. They can be found on the pedestrian walkways of cities, often living in makeshift shelters made from large cardboard boxes.

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  • +1 Thank you. I wasn't sure about people in the pedestrian walkway. BTW if you see someone sitting in an alley and you want to simply describe it, do you tend to say on the street or in the alley?
    – Yuri
    Oct 16, 2016 at 17:43
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    Most native speakers would distinguish between street and alley when referring to the location as a location. But in fixed phrases like "living on the street" we wouldn't substitute and say "they are living on the alley". We could say "there's a homeless person living in the alley". Oct 17, 2016 at 11:17

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