I am wondering which of the following sentences is more used or even correct? What is this called? Word-choice, collocation or something else?

  1. I work on a team.

  2. I work with a team.

  3. I work in a team.

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Prepositions like on, with, and in are indicative of the writer's intent. In your example sentences

I work on a team.

the preposition on means that the subject works as a member of a team.

I work with a team.

the preposition with means that the subject works in a cooperative way, although it could also indicate membership of a team.

I work in a team.

the preposition in in this case seems to mean location within a team, but this does not convey the same sense of participation suggested in the first two examples.

As to whether this is a matter of word choice or collocation, it is word choice to convey intent. Collocation most usually refers to several words that are often used together (e.g., making my bed, bar of soap, burst into tears). Collocation for your examples might be something like work team or perhaps work in tandem.

  • Good answer, but maybe a better description of "in": 1) the person works as part of a team rather than working alone, or 2) similar to "on", but "in" might signify a minor role, or as a member of a component of a large team. – fixer1234 Aug 10 at 18:15
  • I work on a team = I manage/control/influence a team.
  • I work with a team = I collaborate/cooperate with a team.
  • I work in a team = I am one of that team

I work on a team

  • means the person is a member of the team.

I work with a team means I contribute my knowledge as a member

  • means the person is helping a team in some way, but may or may not be a member of the team. For example, suppose my company sells widgets to hospitals, and the hospital has a team of installers who will be installing the new widgets in each room. If I am training those installers, I might say, “I am working with the installation team” even though I’m not a member of the installation team.

I work in a team

  • If I heard someone way this, I would assume they simply meant they worked as a member of the team; it sounds like it’s talking about membership more than location. A different answer says this is uttered more often in British English, which may be true. People might also use the expression work in teams to describe an approach to solving a problem; for example, a teacher might say to the class, “I want you to work in teams of three as you try to solve this problem.”
  • I work on a team = Used in American English
  • I work in a team = Used in British English
  • I work with a team = cooperate with a team

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