Do we use in or on when we want to talk about some action or event that takes place in/on the street?

  • This car has been parked [in/on] our street for a week now.
  • There's nobody [in/on] the street.
  • Let's go play [in/on] the street.
  • There was an accident [in/on] their street yesterday.
  • I guess I lost my necklace [in/on] the street.

And so on.

  • 1
    The O.P. might be interested in the sister site for English Language Learners, which probably would have been a better place this question. – J.R. Nov 3 '13 at 9:10
  • What kind of 'English' do they teach there? – WS2 Nov 3 '13 at 9:26
  • @WS2: They teach ESL for English learners from non-English countries (nonnative speakers), I think. – Safira Nov 3 '13 at 9:31
  • More info about ELL vs ELU can be found here. – J.R. Nov 3 '13 at 9:32
  • Related and possible duplicate: Does a pedestrian walk 'in' the road, or 'on' the road. In fact we have an entire tag for choosing between in and on. – RegDwigнt Nov 3 '13 at 13:18

In the UK we would not use 'on' in any of the examples given. When talking of a specific street it is always 'in the street'.

If you are talking about streets in general, there are circumstances in which you can use 'on'. e.g 'The price on the street is high'. 'You see them on the streets of London'

Now many people reading this will refer to the song in 'My Fair Lady' , 'On the Street where you Live', and infer that I am talking rubbish. But remember that MFL was originally a Broadway production.

I doubt George Bernard Shaw said 'On the street where you live...', but if someone now tries to prove that he did, it will have been because he was Irish!

When it comes to 'road' the position is quite different. Generalised terms such as being out 'on the open road', or 'on the road to nowhere' take 'on'. When it comes to named roads the position is complex. If it is a road in town with a name such as 'Chelsea Bridge Road' you could use either 'on' or 'in'. If it is a major out of town road such as the M6, you would use 'on'. That is unless you wanted to stress the very road itself. e.g. ''on' the M6 some silly old geezer was walking 'in' the road.'

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  1. on
  2. in
  3. on
  4. on
  5. in

Generally, on is used for a surface and in for an enclosed space. On 2 an 5, though, you used in because the situation took place within the vicinity of the street.

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  • A street has buildings, which defines it as a street and form an enclosed space. – Roaring Fish Nov 3 '13 at 9:13
  • I don't think it's quite that simple; many of these expressions could use either preposition. I think #1 could take either word, for sure, with a slight shift in meaning (in seems to convey a worse parking job). – J.R. Nov 3 '13 at 9:14
  • I wasn't suggesting it were simple, or even that gelolopez is wrong, more that the surface/enclosed reasoning doesn't work. I am not going to answer this one because (as noted by WS2) to us Brits it is "in the street" and while I would love to say that is the answer, Ngram (English corpus) says both are used pretty much equally, but with 'on' trending up and 'in' trending down. The British English corpus prefers 'in'. – Roaring Fish Nov 3 '13 at 9:55
  • @Roaring - just to be clear, my initial comment was aimed at the answer here, not a reply to your comment. – J.R. Nov 3 '13 at 9:58

I am not a native speaker, but I am a pretty good English speaker and I get confused with prepositions a lot. But in my opinion, for the 1st one, either on or in can work. If we say on the street, I think the emphasis is that the car was parked outside on the street, instead of parking in a garage, for instance. That is, where the car was spotted is the key in this case. But if we say in the street, I think the emphasis is that the car has been occupying that space, and so in should be more proper. So, if the emphasis is that the car has been illegally occupying the space for a long time, in should be used. But just like anything that has developed "evolutionally", it is hard to say exactly what the consensus should be.

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