Preposition of location in and on are kind of tricky to me and I'm not 100% sure which one to use in certain situation. For example, the picture of Thomas is on the yearbook means that Thomas's picture is on the cover of the yearbook vs the picture of Thomas is in the yearbook means that Thomas's picture is in certain page of the yearbook. Am I right on this?

I'm not sure which preposition to use for things that are untouchable. For example, I found this picture in the internet vs I found this picture on the internet

  • "The picture of Thomas is on the yearbook" could also mean that there is a picture of Thomas physically on the yearbook. Dec 30, 2016 at 8:59

2 Answers 2


The use of prepositions in English is frequently idiomatic. General guidelines exist, but be prepared to learn individual expressions in which the preposition does not adhere to the guidelines.

In the case of the prepositions in and on, here are the most usual uses.


in mainly denotes “rest at”:

`PLACE: He lives in the country. He lives in Chicago. (BUT, He lives at 2300 Wabash Ave.)`
`TIME: I’ll be there in an hour.`
`MANNER: The child ran down the steps in tears.`
`REFERENCE: In my opinion we need a referendum. They are happy in their marriage.`


on indicates proximity and position above or outside:

`PLACE: He sat on the fence.`
`TIME: He was not thinking well on that occasion.`
`REFERENCE: He asked my opinion on the matter.`
`CONDITION: We’ll hire him on your recommendation.`
  • The link at the end makes this look a lot like some of the frequent spam on this site. If you are a genuine user, maybe consider removing that link, or at least follow up here with a comment to show us that you are not a bot.
    – tripleee
    Dec 22, 2016 at 6:48

Answer 1: Yes, you are right.

Answer 2 (Short): And I would say "on the Internet."

Answer 2 (Long): There is no generalization like you ask for for intangible things because you could also say, "I found this picture in the cloud, in cyberspace." And both these intangible things are also "on the Internet."

  • As an aside, as Muj points out in his answer, most prepositions are idiomatic. So, as I usually tell my students, just memorize each one as a separate piece of vocabulary. For example, "in the cloud," "in cyberspace," and "on the Internet" would be learned as three separate vocabulary words. To me, it's easier to learn three separate vocabulary words that mean the same thing than to remember grammar rules. Dec 22, 2016 at 12:05
  • Just think of the terms "on line" and "in line." "I waited in line" and "I waited on line" mean the same thing depending on where you live. See this article here. And note that "in line" is the correct one when you're talking about being "in a queue." Even the New York Times corrects New Yorkers for saying "on line." Dec 22, 2016 at 12:07
  • 1
    Yeah, well, the New York Times is wrong then (said this New Yorker who proudly waits on line).
    – stangdon
    Dec 22, 2016 at 19:49

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