When referring to a car, we tend to say "in the car".

"I am in the car"

but when it comes to plane, the sentence is either

"I am on the plane" or "I am in the plane".

The term


would suggest being on top of something. "I am on the chair".

while the term


is referred to being inside something. "I am in the basement"

Is it incorrect to say "on" when saying "I am on the plane" ?

  • 1
    I don't know if this is a real rule, but my rule of thumb is that you're "in" something if you can't stand up in it - you're on a bus, plane, train, boat, but you're in a car, limousine, coffin, etc.
    – Paul
    Jan 7, 2016 at 4:32

2 Answers 2


There are chairs and chairs.

As for planes, naval terminology is in effect, since planes are viewed as flying ships. Thus, when you're on a plane, you're actually on board a plane.

Really, that's all there is to it.

  • 1
    +1 nice call on the naval terminology, most will not know that. To my ear "on a plane" is as you stated, "on the plane" sounds more like one is "on top of a plane", but I have yet to answer the phone while in flight and explain where I was. BTW did you mean: There are chairs and then there are chairs?
    – Peter
    Jan 7, 2016 at 4:42
  • What about "chairs"? Is it a saying?
    – V.V.
    Jan 7, 2016 at 4:51
  • 1
    @V.V.: You can sit in a chair or on a chair, depending on the type of chair.
    – Ricky
    Jan 7, 2016 at 5:40
  • @Peter: Can you honestly (with a straight face) answer the phone while [you're] in a ship?
    – Ricky
    Jan 7, 2016 at 5:41
  • @V.V. The saying: There is something and then there is something is kind of an idiom meaning there are at least two different types/degrees of the *something, but both are referred to by the same something name (which can make things ambiguous/confusing, but people will know the obvious differences once they are pointed out). Usually there is a difference in emphasis when spoken to differentiate the two. To paraphrase: a rose by any other name, is different...
    – Peter
    Jan 7, 2016 at 9:09

On a plane is correct. On refers to being on a surface, and a plane and other things such as buses and ships have "platforms" that are big enough to stand on.

However, you can also say in a plane or bus, because in means enclosed in.

Similarly, you can say I'm in or on an elevator, depending on whether you conceive of yourself standing on the surface (platform or floor) of the elevator car or of being inside the elevator car. Of course to stress that you are on top of a car, plane, bus, elevator car etc. you would use on top of.

As for chair, you can either be on a chair, which means in contact with its (horizontal) surface, and this could mean the seat, the arms or the back of the chair; or you could be in a chair which means enclosed by the chair.

For an extended discussion, see

"In" and "on": How can I decide which one to use for vehicles?

and the related

Q: Should I say “She is in the park” or “She is at the park”?.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .