We don't say they are on the tv when watching TV, and we don't say they are on the radio when listening to the radio. But if someone is, like me right now, using their computer, they are ON the computer.

I just find it a strange way of wording it. Is there a reason why the preposition on is collocated with computer?

  • 3
    Relevant: "Preposition IN Vs Preposition ON when writing by an electronic device" There is some speculation there about the origins of this expression, but no clearly sourced answer. But WS2's comment does mention the related and older usage "work things out 'on' a mechanical calculator." I'd note that we also say someone is "on the phone." So computers are not unique.
    – herisson
    Aug 21, 2016 at 20:49
  • By the way, welcome to the site! It seems to me that your question is a little vague (you don't specify what you mean by the word "why"). If you want to know the historical origins, this is a good place to ask (and I hope people will soon be able to tell you the answer). However, if you are still learning English and want more practical guidance about how to figure out which preposition to use in which circumstances, this question would be a better fit on the site for English Language Learners. Can you please edit your post to clarify what you want to learn?
    – herisson
    Aug 21, 2016 at 20:55
  • Hi sumelic. First time posting on the site after lurking for a while but I'm (obviously) not up to date with rules regards where certain posts go.
    – Sem75
    Aug 21, 2016 at 20:57
  • I'm not sure how to make it clearer. If someone is watching Tv, they are watching TV. They're not ON the tv. If someone is listening to the radio, they're NOT on the radio. But if someone is, like me right now, using their computer, they are ON the computer.
    – Sem75
    Aug 21, 2016 at 20:59
  • Apologies btw. Hit enter too soon.
    – Sem75
    Aug 21, 2016 at 21:00

1 Answer 1


I would suggest that there's a silent working there, and so the sentence is a contraction, as in:

I'm (working) on my computer.

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