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Which expression is correct?

stars in heaven


stars on heaven

I want to express that something comes in really, really large numbers. For instance: "There are more Blabla than stars on/in heaven".

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closed as general reference by Cameron, JSBձոգչ, Matt E. Эллен, MετάEd, Daniel Nov 27 '12 at 19:23

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I'd say "in" is better than "on". – Cameron Nov 27 '12 at 15:13
I'd say "the sky" is better than "heaven". I'd also say this is a rather nice question for English language learners, but too basic for any native speaker. – RegDwigнt Nov 27 '12 at 15:20
@RegDwighт: Thanks for the link, I wasn't aware of that site. I guess my questions (not only this one) rather fit there. – joergl Nov 27 '12 at 15:34
up vote 5 down vote accepted

In dialogue, “stars on heaven” might be used to imply the speaker is non-native. “Stars in Heaven” (or the “stars in the heavens” mentioned in a later answer) is a rather more natural form than “stars on heaven”, but “stars in the sky” is probably heard much more commonly than either.

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This Ngram makes it very clear that 'stars on heaven' isn't used - it gets no hits at all.

This is because the concept of heaven is a space that surrounds the stars, so they are in heaven in the same way that an aircraft is in the air, rather than the tangible item that would be required for them to be on, as when an aircraft is on the solid ground.

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And to be honest, it does look like a typo. – Mr Lister Nov 27 '12 at 15:53
I would be very wary of putting forward explanations for particular choices of preposition in English or any other language. They work up to a point, but there is often an inexplicable arbitraryness about them. – Colin Fine Nov 27 '12 at 18:33

"In" is the only preposition that works in idiomatic English in this case. Sometimes it's possible to choose between two or three prepositions, but the stars are metaphorically in Heaven and the people are here on Earth.

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As a minor exception, if using 'heaven' to refer to the sphere of fixed stars in the Ptolemaic Model (or other similar cosmologies), on would be the correct word choice. This is because in this context heaven is referring to an actual surface. If you're doing that the context needs to be made explicit to avoid confusion. Otherwise I agree with the other answers that 'in' is the correct choice.

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Use stars in the heavens where the heavens means the sky.

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