What do these sentences mean?

  • I am on the show
  • I am at the show
  • I am on the front right here
  • I am at the front right here

I've seen and heard these sentences but i'm not sure about their meanings

  • Unfortunately, the use of prepositions is often one of the most idiosyncratic features of a language. While there are some tendencies that can be drawn from examples, in the end there is no magic rule, and you just have to learn their use. The use is sometimes quite arbitrary, and often depends on which verb and which noun phrase you are using. – Colin Fine Mar 24 '18 at 1:12

Let's pretend we are talking about a game show on television.

I am on the show

This means you are a participant. You are not watching the show on TV or watching as a member of the studio audience, you are at the studio, in front of the cameras, playing the game.

This is easily understood of we use the example of a horse. "I am on the horse," means you are riding the horse. The preposition "on" meaning (among other things) physically above ("on the ladder") or within ("on the ship") and in contact with (not, for example, in the air above it, that would need the preposition "above.").

I am at the show.

This means you are a spectator on location. You are a member of the studio audience or you are employed by the show as staff. You are not someone watching on television nor are you playing the game. (Unless the audience paticipates with the game. But we don't want to make this too complex.)

Again, let's consider the example of a horse. "I am at the horse," means you are standing next to or near the horse. You are not riding the horse and you may or may not be in contact with the horse.

I am on the front, right here.

This is an awkward statement that would only make sense if both speaker and listener clearly understood the context of the word "front" — and even then it's awkward. For example, if you are talking about the "front lines" of a war and you are literally first in line (in front of you are no allies, only enemies), then you can claim to be "on the front." More frequently one would say "at the front" as it is more common to be involved with the fighting at the front lines, but at any given moment, you may not be literally on the front line.

On the other hand, if we continue with our example of a game show, we could be talking about the front row of seats for the audience. In this case the statement is more valid and easier to understand. However, while the "front lines" of a war are often simplified to "the front," the front row of seats is almost never simplified that way (except in colloquial English). It would be better to specify what "front" you're talking about. I.E., "I am on the front row, over here."

Oh, that reminds me, while it would be common to hear someone say "right here" in the context you're providing, it's actually not a good way to express what you mean. If you think it through, you're trying to help someone else discover where you are. From their perspective, you are certainly not "right here." You are "over here." However, humans being the frequently selfish and self-centered people that they are, we regularly say "right here" from our own perspective, even when that perspective is unhelpful.

We won't worry too much about the horse example with this statement as it would suggest you were standing on the horse's head.

I am at the front, right here.

This example makes the most sense generally. Whether discussing the front lines of a war, the front row of seats, the front of a line, or the front of (almost) anything else, this statement is great. It does assume the listener understands the context (i.e., they know the difference between the front row of seats and the front of the line), but for the most part, it's an understandable statement. It describes your relative location within an unspecified (but understood by your listener) context compared to others within a group or compared to an area or region.

Finally, our horse example does work with this statement as it would imply either (a) you were standing at the front of a group of people surrounding a horse or (b) you were standing near the head of the horse.

It might be obvious, but I like horses. I'm not as fond of game shows, but it was a convenient context.

  • Yes they were super clear! Thank you so much i appreciate your explanation! And the two last questions if i say "I'm in the show" does it mean that you are part of the staff or something like that? And if you say "i am in the front row" does it mean like you are in the boundaries of that specific row, right? – J P Mar 24 '18 at 1:16
  • In this specific case, "in the show" and "on the show" mean the same thing. But! "in the horse" and "on the horse" are NOT the same thing. "In the front line" would suggest there were multiple lines and you were in the closest line to the front of someplace. However, you will hear people say "in the front of the line" which is idomatically identical to "at the front of the line." Note that "in the front of the line" is ungrammatical. Common, but not good English, nonetheless. You can be "in line" (inside the line) but, if you think about it, you can't be "in the front." Only "at the front." – JBH Mar 24 '18 at 1:22
  • Finally, you can say "in the front row" because you are inside a group of seats. "At the front row" would suggest you have not entered the row and taken your seat. "On the front row" is idiomatically identical to "in the front row" (as I think about it, they might even be grammatically identical, but I want to think more about that). – JBH Mar 24 '18 at 1:25
  • So, sorry if i'm too stubborn, but, then, what would these sentences mean: •I am at the center of the class, •I am on the center of the class and •I am in the center of the class. I hope i don't make you get mad – J P Mar 24 '18 at 3:02
  • I'm happy to help, but this is much more complex because "class" can mean many barely related things - and whether or not any of those statements make sense depends on which definition of "class" you're using. Help me out. What does "class" mean in this case? – JBH Mar 24 '18 at 4:12

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