I have seen both:

  • "in the street" AND "on the street"
  • "in the square" AND "on the square"

Which preposition is correct?

  • There isn't a strict rule without context. Any of them might be OK. – user3169 Mar 10 '16 at 6:39
  • I would never speak of meeting on the square. Google Books claims about 472 instances of met in Times Square, but met on Times Square gets only 10 hits (half of which are duplicates anyway). – FumbleFingers Mar 10 '16 at 18:06
  • @Fumble - on the square is idiomatic English, at least in the US. I seldom hear it used with the name of a particular square (such as Times Square), but I've seen and heard it used plenty. This magazine article uses the phrase several times – starting in the title, but also in sentences such as, "I met Sherif often on the square," and, "his son and a group of friends had been on the square all day." More instances in news stories. – J.R. Mar 10 '16 at 23:02
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – J.R. Mar 11 '16 at 13:29

Prepositions are difficult: there is a lot of flexibility and cultural variation. These are loose guidelines for British english.

If you were talking about a person, in the street means that they are standing or walking in the street, Whereas on the street means that they are homeless. Likewise, in the square means that they are standing or walking in the square, and on the square means that they are honest.

For a vehicle or building you would use in for the street and the square and a named square, eg Times Square, and in or on for a named street.


If you are

in the street you are "within" the street. You are confined within the street.

If you are on the street you are talking about the street as a surface.

The same for square and other similar places, such as field, playground.

I'm in the square, field, playground = I'm confined within the square, field, playground.

I'm on the square, field, playground = I'm on the surface that is the square, field, playground.

Same for a large mode of transportation: if it's large enough inside to contain a surface you can use on to refer to the inside surface. Therefore, you can be both in (within) a bus, train, boat, airplane, elevator or on any of these.


"In the street" means literally that you are "in the middle of the street", just standing on it

"On the street" can be used to describe, for example, buildings, which face the street.

"The factory was on Jackson Street."

The same construction can be used in the case of describing a pedestrian who is walking down the street, but he/she is on the sidewalk, not in the middle of the road.

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