When you speak of someone being on the ward, is on the only acceptable preposition? Is there a difference between American and British English on this? Would complements change the preposition required? (On the ward, but in the maternity ward?)

The COCA tells me "in" is slightly more prevalent than "on", but I'm not sure about the difference in usage in American English.

Thanks in advance for enlightening me.

  • Man, we have had a metric crapton of on/in usage questions today. Was there a symposium on prepositions and the presenter accidentally missed out two of them? :P Mar 14, 2016 at 17:06
  • @John Clifford This particular pairing is mentioned there? Mar 14, 2016 at 17:13
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth It's not, but it's enough of a discussion on the lack of solid prepositional rules to point to there not being a definitively right answer to the question; would you disagree? Mar 14, 2016 at 17:17
  • Personally I would say "on the ward" if I meant the area of the hospital containing the rooms, and "in the ward" if I meant one of the individual rooms specifically, but I guarantee others will think differently. Mar 14, 2016 at 17:23
  • 'On the ward' is synonymous, and closely so, with 'in the ward'. I don't think I'd choose the lightly metaphorical 'on the ward' for say You find the occasional ant ...'. The many senses of 'on' possibly encourage its choice for staff (on duty), patients (on that particular list), equipment (on hand) ... Mar 14, 2016 at 17:24

1 Answer 1


In my American English experience, I wouldn't use the word "Ward" at all. The very use of it sounds somewhat dated, somewhat British. I'd use "on the floor" (of the hospital) or, a little more precisely, "in the department."

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