In a sentence such as "Alice is fishing in the lake", what is the function of "in"?

My impression is that "in" is used to indicate the target of "fishing". That is, Alice herself is not necessarily in the lake (she could be standing beside the lake, etc.). In that case, is it similar to sentences such as "Alice is writing in the book" or "Alice is looking in the mirror"?

If my impression is incorrect, does "in" indicate that Alice is in fact within the boundaries of the lake (e.g. Alice is standing in the water, or is in a boat on the water)?

  • The fish she's fishing for are in the lake. That's one thing. Nov 1, 2017 at 0:11
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    Another thing is you don't need the preposition Alice is fishing the lake. Compare Alice has fished this lake all her life. (but plural these lakes, waters, rivers etc might be more common. Nov 1, 2017 at 0:14

3 Answers 3


The sentence "Alice is fishing in the lake." doesn't imply that Alice is inside the lake although she could be. It is different from "Alice is fishing at the lake." or ".. beside the lake." or " ... from the lake." only in that it emphasises the action (bait, hook, lure etc.) is inside the lake. In this way it is similar to "Alice is writing in the book." or "Alice is looking in the mirror."

Compare it to the sentence "Alice is fishing in her handbag for change."

  • You forgot "on the lake". Nov 7, 2017 at 18:32

Anyone who is fishing is at or upon a lake. The expression "fishing in the lake" simply means that their fish hook is in the lake where the fish are invited to sample it. "In the lake" is a prepositional expression that refers to one within its boundaries.

There is another prepositional expression "on the lake" which can refer to those who are in the home or pier adjacent to the lake. This is distinct from those "on the water" who are floating or rafting on top of the lake.

One who is swimming is "in the water".


The short answer is this: "the action or process takes place inside the location"

So, "Alice is fishing in the lake" means that the "fishing" takes place inside the lake. This though doesn't explain whether Alice is in the lake or not.

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