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riv‧er /ˈrɪvə $ -ər/ ●●● S2 W2 noun [countable] 1 a natural and continuous flow of water in a long line across a country into the sea → stream

the Mississippi River

the River Thames

on a river

There were several boats on the river.

along a river

We went for a walk along the river.

up/down (a) river

a ship sailing up river

They drifted slowly down river.

across a river

a bridge across the river


GRAMMAR: Patterns with river

in the river • You use in the river to talk about things that happen in the water:

In summer we swim in the river.

There was something floating in the river.

on the river • You use on the river to talk about things that happen on the surface of a river or very close to the edge of a river:

We went boating on the river.

There’s a nice pub on the river.


GRAMMAR: Patterns with sea

in the sea

• You use in the sea to talk about things that happen in the water:

We paddled in the sea.

Whales are mammals that live in the sea.

on the sea

• You use on the sea to talk about things that happen on the surface of the water:

The boat floated on the calm sea.

by the sea

• You use by the sea to talk about things that are on the land near the sea: They live in a cottage by the sea.


The dictionary says "The boat floated on the calm sea." but also says "There was something floating in the river."

My question is that, regarding to our swimming technique, sometimes we swim completely under the surface of the sea/ river (not diving though). In this case, do we say "we are swimming in the sea / river".?

Other times, we try to float our body on the surface of the sea/ river. In this case, do we say "we are swimming on the sea / river".?

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    It's always swimming in the water. Contrast a ship on the water, a submarine in the water. (Perhaps because we're entirely in the water, i.e. have approximately neutral buoyancy... but the true explanation may be over my head.) – DrMoishe Pippik Mar 15 at 3:50
  • @DrMoishePippik This is a sufficient answer, you might consider reposting it as such. – JKreft Mar 20 at 8:28
  • @JKreft, as you suggest, it's moved to an answer, and I'll delete the comments if it's accepted. Thanks! – DrMoishe Pippik Mar 20 at 19:40
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It's always swimming in the water. Contrast a ship on the water, a submarine in the water. (Perhaps because we're entirely in the water, i.e. have approximately neutral buoyancy... but the true explanation may be over my head.)

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