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How small does a land-mass have to be before you live “on” it, rather than “in” it?

Seeing that the term Britain refers to an island, which of the following sentences (if any) is the best way to state the fact that one lives there?

I live in Britain.

I live on Britain.

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@Jim: I think this asks a rather different question, as I hope my answer may show. –  Barrie England Jun 14 '12 at 7:29
    
@Barrie England: I think this is definitely a dup. The answers and comments on the original specifically address usage with England, [Great] Britain, The British Isles, The United Kingdom, etc., –  FumbleFingers Jun 14 '12 at 9:52
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marked as duplicate by Jim, FumbleFingers, jwpat7, waiwai933 Jun 14 '12 at 16:24

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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The island is Great Britain. Britain is a conveniently short way of describing the state known formally as The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It follows that 'I live in Britain' (as indeed I do), just as a French person might say 'I live in France'.

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Thanks for your answer - it was as I thought. So it would be incorrect to state "I live in Great Britain" as that is an island and not a state or country? –  benni_mac_b Jun 14 '12 at 7:37
    
@benni_mac_b: In practice, the terms do get confused, so you might well hear 'I live in Great Britain', referring to the political entity. If you were speaking geographically, you'd say something explicit like 'Those who live on the island of Great Britain are aware that changes in the weather can be sudden and unpredictable.' –  Barrie England Jun 14 '12 at 7:48
    
Cheers Barrie thats cleared it up. –  benni_mac_b Jun 14 '12 at 7:52
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You could also say, "I live on the island of Great Britain", though it does sound somewhat grandiose way of saying it :D This is then describing that the object in question 'Great Britain' is being refered to as a geological/geographical rather than political/communal location. Leaving the "the island of" out infers the political state, moreso simply because of the amount of times it is refered to as such, and thus "on" sounds rather odd (and incorrect if we take the inference as concrete).

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