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"IN" tells us the noun is in an enclosed space (surround or closed off on all sides). Basically, when something is inside something.

"AT" tells us that the following noun is located at a specific point or location. It shows an exact position.

"ON" tells us that the following noun is located on a surface. Use on when one thing is attached to or touching something.

But, what about:

"I am in the street" (so, the street is considered as an enclosed space, maybe, the sentence would mean I am in the middle of the street, not on a pavement)? or

"I am on the street" (so, the street is considered as a surface, the sentence would mean I am standing on it, not under the ground)?

What are the differences?

  • "In the street" implies to me that you have somehow found yourself inside of the pavement (crater, digging, fusion experiment gone awry, etc.), but that might just be me. – Alexander May 19 '17 at 13:56
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    @Alexander - Consider the song "Dancing In the Street" - clearly Marvin Gaye didn't mean to imply "dancing while embedded in the blacktop". – stangdon May 19 '17 at 16:18

I am in the street.

usually means you are on the pavement of the street possibly where you can get hit by car, as one would tell children "Get out of the street!"

I am at the street.

is usually used to say you have arrived at a street e.g. an intersection with another street "I am at Fifth Avenue and 43rd St."

I am on the street.

is used to say you somewhere along the street "He lives on Mitchell Avenue." means he lives somewhere along Mitchell Avenue.

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Marvin Gaye's song "Dancing in the street" infers that they are in the middle of the street.

The correct form is stated above. When you use in you are referring to being on the middle of the street or literally inside or under the street. But then we would just say I'm in the sewer under the street.

Kids can play in the street. They can also play on the street. They cannot play at the street.

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    In UK English, "I am on the street" usually means "I am homeless". – Michael Harvey Oct 12 '18 at 6:49

"I am in the street" is definitely more generic that "I am on Elm Street". "In" is more general statement about you being out of doors, perhaps homeless; whereas "On" is more specific to a particular street.

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