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A lot of popular media (specifically Disney) is STRONGLY rooted in characters created by other people.

I've learned English since Elementary School, and now decades later, I'm still struggling with the proper use of prepositions. I found the example above from some writing forum. I want to know why it's 'rooted in' not 'rooted at' or 'rooted on'?

  • With prepositions there isn't always any clear logic, but here it's because a root goes in to the soil. It does not just lie on the soil, and it isn't just located at a place. – user96060 Jun 5 at 9:14
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Sometimes more than one preposition can be used, and the meaning stays pretty much the same. For example:

This happened in the year 1893.
This happened during the year 1893.

Other times, only one preposition is idiomatic. In this case, rooted in is an expression that even gets its own entry in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

rooted in (idiom) formed, made, or developed by using (something) as a basis
Her opinions are deeply rooted in her faith.
a dance rooted in African tradition

Sometimes there is a logical reason behind the correct preposition choice. As was said in a comment, in this case, plant roots go down into the soil, so in would make more sense than on or at. But I can see where it might be confusing, especially because of the way we say based on this, but rooted in that.

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Look at the tree. Where are its roots? IN the ground, literally.

Just like a tree, which has its roots in the ground, things may have roots in something. Now, by roots we mean origins or background of something (e.g. The Association has its roots in the early 1950s.) Therefore, if something has roots in something, it is rooted in something (again, think about the tree and where it grows from). If one thing is rooted in another, it is based on it, has developed from it, or is influenced by it: The conflict in the area was rooted in history and religion. Their values are rooted in the past. Most prejudices are rooted in ignorance.

"Rooted at" or "rooted on" would be wrong because of the roots of this particular phrasal verb ;-)

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