Preposition: in the street, on the street, at the street?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by majlo, Dec 9, 2005.

  1. Hey :)
    I've heard that in the street is a BrE and on the street is an AmE. Would you mind telling me whether it is true or not?
    Thanks :)
  2. DAH

    DAH Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    From where I'm sitting (in Los Angeles), it's "on the street."

    Best regards!
  3. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    Well, I think in AE we use both, but "on the street" is more common.

    And I suspect they may have subtle differences in meaning depending on context.
  4. judkinsc

    judkinsc Senior Member

    English, USA
    Hrmm, I'm American. To me, there's a significant difference between the two.

    "In the street" means literally that you are "in the middle of the street, standing on it, and waiting for a passing car to hit you.", while "on the street" can be used to describe buildings which face the street. i.e. "The factory was on Jackson Street." or a pedestrian who is walking down the street, but is on the sidewalk, not in the middle of the road.
  5. katiebridle Member

    English, UK
    As a British English speaker, I would say that 'in the street' is more common in BrE, but we do say 'on the street' as well, probably because we do use many AE phrases in everyday speech.
  6. meagain9969 Member

    Mexico. Spanish
    I have always had this problem. Some say that in the street is for the activities and on the street is for position. is this true? Please give me a hand. Thanks guys.

    <<Mod comment: This thread has been added to the end of the previous thread on the same subject. Well, OK, it had the in and the on the other way round, but you can see the similarity.>>
  7. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    English / England
    That sounds ok in theory - but usually people can think of examples to contradict these generalities.
  8. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    SB is correct. It doesn't take much effort to think of --

    Riding my bicycle on the street...which is an activity.

    Where is the manhole cover? It's in the middle of the street....position.
  9. jimreilly

    jimreilly Senior Member

    American English
    I somewhat disagree--I think one rides a bicycle in the street, but on the pavement. Which is interesting, because one rides a bicycle on the sidewalk, not in the sidewalk. And, even worse, one drives a car on Main Street. Why do I think a bicycle uses in and a car on? No idea, it's just the way I've always said it!

    At any rate, it's tricky, isn't it?
  10. Sean Brian Kirby Member

    Drujba-1, Sofia, Bulgaria
    English, United States
    I would ride my bike on the street. "In" the street always implied a more risky endeavor, since childhood. Don't ask me why. :)
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I wonder what the man in the street would say?
    If we listen carefully, I think we'd hear him speak BE, whereas his cousin, the man on the street, would speak AE.
  12. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Try changing 'street' to 'road' and 'highway'. For me, though the vehicle may remain the same, whether bicycle or go-kart or roller-skates, the prepositions sometimes change. Curious. It seems to be more about sound and cadence than grammar.
  13. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The kids used to play games in the street.
    They were not allowed to play on the road(pavement), but were told to stay on the footpath(sidewalk).

    Cuchu's cadences, of course, compel me onwards.
    On the Road Again.
    On Highway 61
  14. swift_precision Senior Member

    On Route 66
  15. tvdxer Senior Member

    Minnesota, U.S.A.
    Minnesota, U.S.A. - English
    We say "on the street" here in Minnesota, USA.
  16. Eugens

    Eugens Senior Member

    Argentina Spanish
    I'd also heard/read the comment that one was American and the other British. I don't remember which was which.:D

    I've found some set expressions in my dictionary with "on/in the street." According to it, you can say:
    1)"The man/woman in the street," but also "the man/woman on the street" (the average person, who represents the general opinion about things)
    2) "The streets" also "the street," "young people living on the streets" (the busy public parts of a city where there is a lot of activity, excitement, and crime, or where people without homes live)
    3) "a car parked on the other side of the street"
    4) "be (living) on easy street" (to be in a situation in which you have plenty of money)

    I wonder if one can say #2 and 4 with "in".
  17. jimreilly

    jimreilly Senior Member

    American English
    I don't think you can. Sure is complicated!
  18. Eugens

    Eugens Senior Member

    Argentina Spanish
    Thank you!
    Hm, now the obligatory question for me is, if you heard a nonnative speaker saying "on the street" where you would have said "in" and vice versa (apart from the cases #2 and 4), would you consider it a big mistake or wouldn't you even notice it if someone didn't point it out?
  19. Oros Senior Member

    1. He lives in London.

    2. He lives at 34 Oxford Street.

    3. His house is on Oxford Street.

    4. He lives on Oxford Street.

    I know the first 3 sentence are fine. How about the fourth sentence? Would you agree with the preposition 'on' in the fourth sentence?
  20. maxiogee Banned

    The fourth is fine. "On" is the best choice for the sentence.
    He doesn't live "at" Oxford Street, he could live "in" Oxford Street, but that can be misinterpreted to mean a down-and-out who lives in a cardboard box in a hidden-away corner.
  21. kertek

    kertek Senior Member

    UK English
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 19, 2013
  22. Oros Senior Member

    I live in Ireland.

    I live in Belgium.

    You wouldn't use the prepostion 'on' here, would you?
  23. It's nugatory. Countries and streets are different pair of shoes.
  24. Oros Senior Member

    5. He lives at 34 Oxford Street in London.

    I guess,if you want to specify the address, the fifth sentence is fine.

    Would you write the fifth sentence?
    My question is on the prepositions.
  25. According to what I have been taught AmE and BrE differ in this respect. AmE would take on while BrE would take in, and thus AmE He lives on Oxford Street and BrE He lives in Oxford Street. However, if you specify the address, you indeed use at.
  26. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm happy with all four five.

    I think the choice between in and on (in 3&4) depends on how big the street happens to be.
    Oxford Street is huge. If anyone lives there, they live on Oxford Street.
    Chadwick Street is short. People who live there live in Chadwick Street.

    Previous threads have discussed this strange subject:

    On the street or in the street

    "in" or "at" the area

    It seems to be quite subjective.
  27. Oros Senior Member

    I thank everybody for the comments.

    So Tony Blair lives in London.

    6. Tony Blair lives at 10 Downing Street.

    7. Tony Blair lives on 10 Downing Street.

    The place 'number 10 Downing Street' is a spot.

    So it should be the sixth sentence.

    For example, we say I met him in London but I met him at Heathrow Airport. London is a huge geographical area where as the airport is a particular place though it has a mass area.

    We use the preposition 'in' for a geographical area and 'at' for a spot or rather a particular place.

    Would you write the seventh sentence?
  28. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't think you should use 10 Downing Street as an example. It is not a spot, it is the Prime Minister's official residence.

    Tony lives in 10 Downing Street rather as the Queen lives in Buckingham Palace.
  29. Oros Senior Member

    Queen lives in Buckingham Palace.
    The above is obvious. The Palace has the three diemensional aspects.

    I live in this house. The preposition 'in' should be used as it has some walls, roof, etc.

    I am not satisfied with 'in Downing Street' , though.
  30. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    From the perspective of a UK resident, the name "10 Downing Street" means the building we see on the news every day. It is a three-dimensional concept, not just an address.

    Bill Bloggs lives at 47 Adelaide Street.
    He does not live on 47 Adelaide Street.

    He might say he lives on Adelaide Street, or in Adelaide Street.
    I think that his choice of on/in depends on how big Adelaide Street is.
  31. maxiogee Banned

    A pedantic old git writes:-

    I thought everyone knew that the Blairs and the Browns have swapped - the Blairs actually live at 11 Downing Street as it was more commodious for their larger (by previous Prime Ministerial standards) family.
  32. Yôn Senior Member

    Is this some strange sort of BE thing? I would never say anyone lived IN any street, no matter how short or small it was.

    When I think of someone living IN "11th street" (as an example), I imagine tiny sidewalk people who live in the cracks of the sidewalk, or something like that. The only time I can think of using IN + STREET is:

    I live in the street

    Which would mean something on the lines of beeing homeless. However, I would use ON there as well if I felt like it.

  33. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Please read the links provided in post #8.
  34. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    From a purely AE standpoint, "at" is used for a specific, defined place, "on" is used before a street name with no specific address, and "in" is used whenever there is the sense of "within" or "inside of." For example:

    He lives at 34 Oxford Street.

    He lives on Oxford Street.

    He lives in Palace Apartments.

    Notice that if the person you are talking to already knows of Palace Apartments, then it is already defined and specific enough between the speakers, so that one may say, "He lives at Palace Apartments." (If the other person does not know of Palace Apartments, he would infer that it is a specific place and probably ask, "What is Palace Apartments?" instead of "Where is Palace Apartments?")

    There are always exceptions and linguistic nuances. One could say, "John lives at that restaurant" to mean "John goes to that restaurant so often that he practically lives there"; but to say "John lives in that restaurant" would imply "John physically inhabits that restaurant."

    When speaking of geographic regions, one always uses "in" since we literally mean "He lives within/inside of London" and not "He lives on top of London" or "He lives at the specific spot of London."

    Hope this helps.

  35. Oros Senior Member

    We have a shop on Adelaide Street.

    Our shop is on Adelaide Street.

    Are the above fine?

    Does it really matter the size of the street?

    Adelaide Street can be a small one, big one or famous one like Champs Elysee.
  36. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I stress that I am speaking BE, and perhaps more locally than that.

    On is perfect if Adelaide Street is well-known for shopping.
    If no one expects to find a shop there, the shop is in Adelaide Street.

    Others may suggest different uses of on and in.
    I'm sorry, but use of in and on in this context has no objective rule.
  37. maxiogee Banned

    I'd be happy with both of them, and with "Our shop is in Adelaide Street".

    The size of the street doesn't matter to me.
    There used to be a difference in the understanding of what constituted a road/street/place/lane/avenue etc. but no longer. I think this might be what panjandrum is referring to.
  38. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    You could be right.
    If so, it is entirely sub-conscious for me.
  39. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Over here the President lives on Pennsylvania Avenue. He lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

    "Don't misunderestimate me" George W. Bush
  40. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    Yes, and he lives in the White House. I think Panjandrum meant that the phrase 10 Downing Street is equivalent to the White House, rather than to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
  41. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    That's exactly what he meant.

    Honestly, you'd think the idiot would manage to say what he meant first time instead of needing to be interpreted.
    I'll have a word with him and tell him to try harder in future.
  42. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    1)on the street
    2)in the street

    Is it because of the usege difference between British and American that these two types are equally frequently used?
  43. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Yes, I think so. Our visitors from the US will say "Is the monastery on Albeq Street?" and the British ones will say, "Is the monastery in Albeq street?"

    I wonder if "in the street" can mean "in the middle of the street, in the traffic lanes" in both AE and BE?

  44. rsweet

    rsweet Senior Member

    English, North America
    The preposition depends on the meaning of the sentence.

    The word on the street is that Tom is dealing drugs.
    The graffiti painted on the street . . . .
    The car was parked on the side of the street.

    Jane was standing in the street crying and calling for her lost dog.
    The water in the street was waist deep.

    What is the sentence you need help with?
  45. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    1)the building facing the street. The Opera House is ( ) the X street.
    2)There are musicians ( ) the street.
    Thanks for the help!
  46. . 1 Banned

    Ferntree Gully
    Australian Australia
    To my way of thinking a person who is on the street is basically living on the street.
    To be in the street is to visit the street for a short period.

  47. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    But there is an AE BE difference I think.

    For me -

    the word on the street is...:tick: but
    The graffiti painted in the street (eg on the walls along the street, on would mean literally painted on the road surface - unless that's what you meant?)
    The car was parked in the street.

    So, it seems we only use "on" for the the "word on the street" (although I may not have thought of an example of "on" of course).
  48. rsweet

    rsweet Senior Member

    English, North America
    Yes, I meant on the road surface.
  49. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Oh, we'd probably call that "street art" here!:D
  50. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    Crug Hywel
    UK English
    I would agree with this. I worked with a project called on the street and into work which was about getting homeless people off the streets, into work and then into housing.

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