I regularly hear the phrase 'in the saddle' but 'on the saddle' seems more appropriate as you are literally on top of it, (I'm using the original definition of literally there!).

I can sit in an armchair. A baby can sit in a high chair. I can sit in a car.

Up to this point, it seems that if the object you are sat in/on surrounds you in some way, then you must sit in it.

I can sit on a plane (at least I've never heard someone say "I'm sitting in a plane right now"!), which is weird because you're actually inside the plane!

But i can only sit on a sofa, no one ever sits in a sofa.

So what gives? Is it just the fact that one option sounds better than the other, or is there some deeper understanding of the English language that I am missing?


Both "in the saddle" and "on the saddle" are used. The difference lies in what you want to say. "On the saddle" is merely a description of the position, while "in the saddle" means "in control". I guess you could imagine an emperor sitting in his giant chair, compared with a commoner sitting on his/her little chair, for an analogy.

The same goes for "in the bed" and "on the bed". "On the bed" is a description of position, while "in the bed" implies in addition being covered by something (a sheet for example).

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  • This answer is definitely in the saddle, thanks! – 3-14159265358979323846264 Aug 9 '19 at 14:18
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    Generally speaking (there are always exceptions), on is used more literally, while in is used more figuratively. – Jason Bassford Aug 9 '19 at 14:23
  • I think one exception is what the op mentioned: "on the plane" vs "in the plane". "On the plane" suggests you are taking a flight, while "in" is more literally here. – trisct Aug 9 '19 at 14:56

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