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Normally, I always use on chat when referring to something another user said/commented about in the past. But recently, two or three other users have sometimes corrected me saying that it should instead be in chat.

A sample example of chat:

[08:44:04 PM] <hjpotter92> as if he's gonna tell his name :P
[08:44:08 PM] <hjpotter92> on mainchat
[08:44:37 PM] <silk> *in

After researching a little bit more about prepositions, I think that using either of the three, on, in or over chat is correct depending more on the context instead of a generalized usage.

Is my research correct?

  • Over chat: It'll be used when I am referencing to some comment in the past from a user.
  • On/In chat: Exchangeable regarding usage.
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    Are you trying to use it so that it is clear that the chat was online rather than verbal? – Xenson Apr 17 '13 at 16:03
  • [08:44:45 PM] <hjpotter92> whatever :P – mcalex Apr 17 '13 at 18:04
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There's not really any way to explain why certain words are with chat in these situations, except that they've evolved through the internet age and are just how we say it, now. So there is no source or reference for me to give you, except that this is standard usage:

I am currently in a chatroom.

I am getting on Skype (or other chat provider).

I asked him a question on chat the other night.

I asked him a question on/over Skype (or other chat provider) the other night.

To speculate as to why these patterns came about:

It's likely that you are described as in a chatroom because it contains the word room, and if we take the abstract concept of a chatroom and consider it a physical object, then you would always describe yourself as in a physical room.

You get on/log on to a chat provider similarly to how you log on to any other website; it's just how it's phrased, I don't have any speculations as to the etymology.

Perhaps we talk on chat because while on chat we are online, or because the text we type appears on the chat window.

When referring to the chat provider by name instead of the generic chat in general, perhaps we can use over similarly to how we can say over the phone; we're imagining the chat provider as sending our messages across, or over, their network.

At any rate, the above is just speculation as to why these usages are prevalent. Just stick with the rules and you should be fine, I doubt there will be a pop quiz on the origins! :)

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  • But OP says (s)he's being corrected for using on chat, and is being told that in chat is correct. – mcalex Apr 17 '13 at 18:02
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    @mcalex I'd be interested to know if the person doing the correcting is a native speaker, because in chat is not something I've ever heard myself. (...unless "mainchat" is the name of a chatroom in that context, in which case it does fit in with my first usage). – WendiKidd Apr 17 '13 at 19:58
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You can't go wrong with sticking with using chat as a verb an building the phrase from some flavor of 'during a chat'. When I say it out loud, each phrase sounds better with the article 'a' before chat. Like 'on a chat'. We could do like the good folks at the OED and collect examples of usage from the literature. When I find concrete examples that I can attribute to a source, I'll add them as a comment.

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