How can I effectively determine when I should use "on" or "in" in this kind of sentence:

"Perhaps you're not preparing a homework assignment or project, but are trying to revise for an exam. If so, you need to know exactly what is on your curriculum."

I wonder if I use the "in" instead. then is it ungammarical?

  • 2
    Does this answer your question? Should we use on, or in? Note that a curriculum is an abstract / non-physical "thing", which can be referenced using either a "surface" metaphor (on) or a "container" metaphor (in). Or even under, and probably other prepositions. Oct 25, 2020 at 15:53
  • @FumbleFingers, as I understand after read the answer you gave me, the way we use "on" or "in" is subject to the "metaphor theme", right? And it is not clear what is right, and what is wong in this sentence, right?
    – Luan Pham
    Oct 25, 2020 at 16:58

1 Answer 1


For your specific example, I believe either works fine and should convey your intentions. There is nothing "ungrammatical" about using "in".

However, in the broader context of the English language, there is no set rule to determining "on" vs. "in". Sometimes the differences between "on" and "in" are obvious, usually when describing how physical objects relate to one another. Sometimes, the two are interchangeable (as you can see here). And finally, sometimes choosing which one is right is based on idiomatic conventions - meaning the "rule" is "how do most people say it?". For example, most English speakers would not say "What's in the menu?". They would say "What's on the menu?".

  • thank you @General Poxter
    – Luan Pham
    Oct 25, 2020 at 16:59
  • Does this answer the question for you? Oct 25, 2020 at 18:10
  • On the curriculum just does not work here. Something in the curriculum may be on the test.
    – Jim
    Oct 25, 2020 at 19:37
  • @Jim What do you mean when you say "On the curriculum just does not work here"? Is it ungrammatical?
    – Luan Pham
    Oct 26, 2020 at 1:57

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