sit in a chair/sit on a chair


Spain spanish
Hi everyone!

I have always wondered about this. Should I say sit in a chair or sit on a chair?

Thank you in advance.
  • judith0030

    Spain spanish
    Hi again!

    Is there any case in which you can say sit on a chair? I have seen both possibilities when reading a book and I don´t know if there is any difference.

    Thank you


    Senior Member
    English (Generic Midwest Variety)
    If it was a large chair with arms, you could sit on the arms, and you'd be sitting on the chair. You also sit on a stool. Or on the toilet. It's very strange, now that you've got me thinking about it.

    Who knows--it could be a regional thing.
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    Senior Member
    Spanish - Spain
    I remember from my English classes that you sit on a chair, but in an armchair (of course, unless you sit on the arms). It may be a regional thing, I don't know -I was taught British English, not American.

    Anyway, Google gives twice as much results for "sit in a chair" than "sit on a chair".

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I'm going to say you can use either. Maybe, instinctively, native speakers know which one to use depending on the type of chair involved.

    A mother takes a child to the dentist. "Sit on that chair and wait, " she tells the child.

    I'm being nagged to go out for a walk: "I don't want to, I'm so comfortable in this chair by the fire".

    Now that I think about it, I think the type of chair IS significant. If I'm sitting by the fire, it's likely in an armchair, and I would never say "on an armchair". If I'm waiting in the dentist's surgery, I would never say I was sitting "in a chair".

    So context is important.
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    Senior Member
    Spanish (European)
    ^Indeed, in Spanish we use the preposition "en" regardless of what kind of object we are sitting on/in.

    As far as I know, both "in" and "on" are correct in English, as some of you already said, and I agree it depends greatly on the context. It definitely depends on what kind of seat we're talking about, but my guess is there is also a nuance there about how comfortable we are - personally, saying that I'm "sitting in an armchair" gives me the impression that I'm sitting comfortably rather than perched on one of the arms (much like you'd perch on a stool or a bed).

    I'm thinking it might have to do with how many ways there are for someone to sit on a particular object: there's only one way to sit on a stool or on the average chair, but there are more possibilities on larger objects like armchairs, right? ^_^


    Senior Member
    English - EEUU
    In addition to sittining "in" an armchair, "sitting in" may be used in the sense of "occupying":

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

    "What seats were you sitting in?" "We were in J12 and 13". (At the theater or on a plane)