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Which preposition is to be used in a phrase like:

An object is mounted [in/on/?] the ceiling in the car.

and

An object is mounted between the front windows [in/on/?] the ceiling.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

A lamp mounted "on the ceiling", is to me one attached to the ceiling and protruding from it (or hanging down).

A lamp mounted "in the ceiling" is recessed into the ceiling, so that it does not protrude.

I would not refer to the "ceiling in a car", but to the "roof of a car", and would make the same distinction: if it protrudes, it is "on" the roof, if it doesn't, it is "in" it.

I don't quite understand what you mean by the "front windows" example, but I think I give the same answer.

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Thank you, that's a useful distinction. How come you wouldn't refer to the ceiling of a car if the object is mounted on the inside? The second example was more if there was a difference when something is mounted between two other somethings. –  Lizzan Sep 23 '11 at 11:35
    
I don't know why, but to me the top of a car is always the roof, not the ceiling, even considering the inside of it. I think it's because when you have a ceiling, there must be a roof above it: a single layer is always the roof. –  Colin Fine Sep 23 '11 at 12:52
    
@Lizzan: Ordinarily, cars have roofs, not ceilings. Your usage of ceiling can just about apply when talking about lights, because we normally associate lights with ceilings and walls, but it will sound a little odd to many (myself and Colin included, obviously. :) –  FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 12:53
    
I think that using roof is ambiguous with regard to interior/exterior of a car. Considering how many people leave the plastic wrapper on their turkey whilst roasting it at thanksgiving, ambiguity during an install procedure is to be avoided at all costs. –  horatio Sep 23 '11 at 21:07
    
@horatio Yes, that's what I was worried about as well. The item mounted in this case is something that could reasonably be mounted on the outside roof of the car as well, so the distinction is useful. –  Lizzan Sep 23 '11 at 22:30
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