in/on line 3 (literature)

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Senior Member
I'm never quite sure how to point out lines in a piece of verse or prose: would you say "the poet says so and so.. in line 3" or "on line 3" or "line 3" ? I've been told "in line" was the correct form but I've already heard people (often native French speakers) say "on line" (as in "on page 3"). Are both correct?
  • almufadado

    Senior Member
    Português de Portugal
    What is a line on a paper?

    A line on a paper is a written continuous mark in that surface.

    What is a line of text ?

    A line of text is the written space between straight lines, either visible or imaginary.

    Then the letters, words and symbols are in the line of text. As in "inside a boundary".

    Note that the text it self is written on paper ! As in the surface a sheet of paper.


    Senior Member
    Pardon me, Almufadado, but post #6 contains several things said in ways I believe no native English speaker would say them. Nonetheless, a few corrections, with your permission, can make it quite useful:
    What is a line on a piece of paper?

    A line on a piece of paper is a continuous mark drawn upon the paper's surface.

    What is a line of text?

    A line of text consists of words and symbols written upon a visible or imaginary line on a piece of paper or other medium.

    Each word or symbol that is part of a line of text is said to be in the line of text, as any part is within a whole.

    Note that the text itself is written "on the paper", i.e. upon the surface of the sheet of paper.
    • Upon can be abbreviated to on, and within can be abbreviated to in.
    • If A is in B, then everything on or in A is also in B, and if A is on B, then everything on or in A is also on B.
    • The word line can refer either to Euclid's "breadthless length" (visible or imaginary) or to a line of text.
    • When an author uses words and/or symbols to express an idea, we say the author expresses that idea wherever the words/symbols are: in a line of text on a baseline on a page in a book, etc.
    From all this, we can infer that the poet "says so and so" either "in line 3" or "on line 3", depending on which type of "line" is meant. I would also say that if the idea is expressed not by a part of a line of text but by the whole of a line of text or several lines of text, the poet expresses the idea with the line(s) in question, not just in them, and the line(s) of text being on a baseline or on baselines, the poet says so and so on the baseline(s).

    I hope this is helpful.
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