There lay much difficulty in the way.

It is written in a dictionary. What if 'on' is used instead of 'in'? Is it possible in the sense of grammar and how are they different in meaning?

And as a separate question, I saw

on the way to

in the way of

quite often, but never have seen 'in the way to ' whose meaning, I guess, might be similar with that of 'on the way to'. Is it wrong to use?

  • I don't have time to write a full answer, but look up the meanings of "on my way" and "in my way". They're kind of idiomatic.
    – stangdon
    Jul 19, 2016 at 12:32
  • This reminds me of the passage in the Bible, Psalm 1:1 (ESV): "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers". I think this context helps show how "in the way" is more about "way" being a method, behavior, or other more abstract concept
    – elmer007
    Jul 19, 2016 at 15:46
  • Also, I believe "in the way" is most commonly used for something being "in the way": "The slow car was in the way." Also, to describe a typical behavior, as in "the boy kept asking questions in the way that only little kids could", or "he casually kept walking past the lion in the way that only a zookeeper could"
    – elmer007
    Jul 19, 2016 at 15:50

2 Answers 2


Using "in" as opposed to "on" in that phrase would suggest that whatever you were talking about was serving as a hindrance toward an intended goal.

As an example, let's say you're driving down a road. As you drive, you see an ambulance at the roadside. You would drive past it, and move on.

You saw that ambulance "on the way" to your destination. If the ambulance had been in the middle of the road blocking your path, it would have been "in the way".

However, in your example the object is "difficulty", which we can assume would be a hindrance even if you didn't specify it being "in" the way. For this reason, "on the way" can be used interchangeably with "in the way" if you're talking about "difficulty", "challenges", etc.

To answer your second question, the correct wording is "in the way of".


There lay much difficulty in the way.

This is an unusual and outdated- or poetic-sounding sentence. It might be...

  1. using the phrase in the way meaning blocking or hindering as in I can't see, there's a tree in the way, or
  2. with way meaning road or path, as in while traveling that path, you will encounter much difficulty. Note that this doesn't have to refer to a literal journey.

It's not very different either way: the speaker is informing you that the task they're talking about is very difficult.

There lay much difficulty on the way.

This is the second meaning above.

  • "There lay much difficulty on the way." is not a complete sentence with the meaning you intend. You would need more, like "There lay much difficulty on the way the new products are put together." The example in the answer by @eelero, "You saw that ambulance on the way" would be OK because "to your destination" is implied even if you don't say it.
    – user3169
    Jul 20, 2016 at 0:54

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