Which one is correct?

Sitting on a Sofa
Sitting in a chair

Why we say "in a chair" but "on a sofa"? I always heard "on a sofa." Why this difference?


2 Answers 2

  • You can sit on a chair
  • You can sit on a sofa
  • You can sit in a chair
  • But... you can't sit in a sofa

As to why... I'm only guessing but I think it's to do with an armchair, where you're surrounded on three sides (the back and both sides) which makes it "in". With a sofa, because the sofa is so large relative to you, you can't be "in" it.

  • You nailed it. You wouldn't say "in a chair" for a straight-back chair with no arm rests. You say "on the chair" in such a case. // Just another weird quirk in English.
    – MaxW
    Oct 31, 2015 at 4:23

When one sits on the sofa alone, no matter what place one occupies, there's going to be an empty seat next to one, opening of the flat or slightly curved surface of the sofa.

When one sits in a chair (and the chairs are usually designed for a single occupant), on all sides except the front, one would have walls/sides of the chair itself. So thus one is surrounded by the chair.

You could use "on" with a chair, if, for instance, you're describing the location of a magazine or a book left on the seat, because in such a case, there would be more room for other articles, and the book/magazine would not occupy the entire chair.

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