on the subway VS in the subway

Discussion in 'English Only' started by MaximuS.111, Feb 11, 2012.

  1. MaximuS.111

    MaximuS.111 Senior Member

    ukraine
    russian
    Greetings!
    I recently watched a movie and there was a story narrated in it, which goes like that:
    "... I remember once when I was your... and I was coming back from some place... a movie or something... and I was on the subway... and there was a girl sitting in front of me..."
    I know that the preposition 'on' is used with transport, so that's what we can see in a dialogue. But there are other prepositions that can be used like: in or by.
    For example:
    Where are you now? - I'm in the subway
    I get to work by subway.
    Could someone please give thorough explanation as to when use what preposition with transport.

    Thanks in advance! :)
     
  2. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    AmE "on the subway": "on the subway train" (because we say "on the train").
    AmE "in the subway": I don't know if this is possible; we need the view of an AE speaker.
    BrE "in the subway": In some sort of pedestrian underpass, possibly one that goes under a road.
    "By" indicates means of transport: "by bus", "by car", "by train", etc.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2012
  3. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    I think on the subway means on the train, whereas you would not usually say in the subway, in the subway station but on the subway, on the train. I go to work by subway, this is correct.
     
  4. MaximuS.111

    MaximuS.111 Senior Member

    ukraine
    russian
    sound shift, Liliana thanks for dropping by! :)
    Now I think we can leave out 'by', because everything's pretty straightforward with it.
    Where are you? - I'm on the subway/on the bus/on the car/on the plain headed to my office.
    Am I right to preposition 'on' to all of those nouns?
    Thanks!
     
  5. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Almost!
    "On the subway", "on the bus" and "on the plane".
    "In the car".
     
  6. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Onboard a ship, in a boat, on a ferry.
     
  7. MaximuS.111

    MaximuS.111 Senior Member

    ukraine
    russian
    sound shift, now you what my concern is :). It's 'in the car' and that's what I thought it would be :). Can you come up with any other examples where on is replaced by in when talking about transport?
    LilianaB
    so the same story with 'in a boat', right? I'm trying to figure out how 'in a boat' and 'in a car' are different from the others...
     
  8. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Hmmmm ...... (Thinks) ..... "In the cable-car". "On the cable-car" is dangerous and impossible for all except James Bond and people like that, because it means "on the outside" :eek:. I agree with what Liliana has just posted, except that I write "on board a ship" rather than "onboard a ship".
     
  9. MaximuS.111

    MaximuS.111 Senior Member

    ukraine
    russian
    Ok, thanks mates! :) I guess I'll just remember the pairs "preposition+noun" without tying them to any rule :).
    Best of luck! :)
     
  10. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Here in New York, we do use "in the subway" to mean within that underground system (in a station, or in a passageway between stations). If we're aboard a train, we say "on the subway".
     
  11. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    In a helicopter, I think. In a chopper, which is the same, I think. Onboard an aircraft.
     
  12. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Yes, I know, Parla, we say in the subway meaning the subway station, but I was not sure whether this was really correct or people just make a shortcut from in the subway station. Could it be used in writing as well? The lawyer was in the subway when he was attacked by a man with a 15 inch knife.
     
  13. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    I agree with Liliana (and Parla).
     
  14. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Yes, although in a news report such as your example, probably more detail would be given, e.g., "on the platform in the ____ station waiting for the __ train". The headline would still be Lawyer Stabbed in Subway.

    But in general, well, imagine this phone dialog:
    A: I'm calling to let you know I've been delayed; I'll be a few minutes late.
    B: What's all that background noise? Where are you?
    A: I'm in the subway.

    Actually, logically, "station" is unnecessary in any case, since "subway" literally means an underground passage; the entire system is a subway.
     
  15. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Thank you. I thought in the subway may be sometimes unclear.
     
  16. MaximuS.111

    MaximuS.111 Senior Member

    ukraine
    russian
    Given the above posts can we infer that when a person refers to a means of transport, he uses the preposition 'on', like I'm on the subway meaning I'm using subway to get home.
    But when he wants to indicate the exact place where he is he might use the preposition 'in' like I'm in the subway meaning I'm in the subway station.
    Is this logic feasible? :)
     
  17. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    I am on the subway means I am on the subway train not in the subway station or any other place in the subway, simply on the train. Inside the train.
     
  18. MaximuS.111

    MaximuS.111 Senior Member

    ukraine
    russian
    LilianaB, thank you! So what preposition would you choose to tell somebody that you are somewhere (without indicating where exactly on the subway train or in the subway station) underground?
     
  19. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Can you tell me what situation you have in mind. Do you want to meet somebody there? Do you want to tell them that it is noisy, for example where you are, and then you want to explain that you are in the subway( while talking on the phone) Do you want to let somebody know that you are on your way home? If you want to let somebody know that you are in the subway and you want to meet them somewhere, you have to tell them exactly where you are. If you want to let them know that you are on your way home you have to tell them I am on the subway, but if you are just waiting for a train, you can tell them I am on the subway platform waiting for a train, or I am at the subway station waiting for a train.
     
  20. MaximuS.111

    MaximuS.111 Senior Member

    ukraine
    russian
    LilianaB, there's no any situation in my mind, I was just trying to figure out the rule about the matter :). As it turns out, the preposition may vary depending on a particular situation.
    Thanks for that! Best of luck! :)
     

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