Sit on it (or sit in it)?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Prepositions can be confusing for English learners. They certainly don’t make sitting easy. At times we sit "on" something, and other times we sit "in" something. How do you know if it’s sit on or sit in?

1) Think “comfort level”:

It depends on how relaxed you are. You sit "in" furniture where you lounge comfortably, and sit "on" seats where your posture is more upright. You are more likely to sit "on" a bench or ottoman, and more likely to sit "in" an armchair (of course, unless you sit "on" the arms).

If you're (comfortably) installed inside the confines of a seat, use "in" - an armchair, a beanbag chair, a recliner, a wheelchair. A sofa (or couch), though it does have arms, is much more wide open. You can sit "on" it from various directions or places on the couch.  However, you might sit "in" the corner of the couch. 

2) Sitting "in" may also be used in the sense of "occupying":

"I'm sorry, but my friend is sitting "in" that chair." (The friend has gotten up for a minute and someone else starts to sit in it, thinking that it is available.)

I usually prefer to sit "in" the aisle seat of a plane but Mattia likes sitting "in" the window seat.

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