to sit in/on the rocking chair

  • naranjalima

    New Member
    spanish
    Thanks, I didn't see it anywhere. I just had the doubt if it is: " to sit in a rocking chair or on a rocking chair "
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Thanks, I didn't see it anywhere. I just had the doubt if it is: " to sit in a rocking chair or on a rocking chair "

    Generally you sit on a chair, but a rocking chair is a bit different. An ngram suggests that "in a rocking chair" is more common.

    Google Books Ngram Viewer

    With objects rather than people we'd probably say, for example, "my glasses are over there on the rocking chair."
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Generally you sit on a chair, but a rocking chair is a bit different.
    I think the difference is the degree to which we perceive that the chair envelops the person. With a simple, armless chair, we would usually say "on" because it is almost like sitting on a stool. With a stuffed armchair, we would say "in" because the person is sort of inside the confines of the chair. A rocking chair usually falls somewhere between these two types, but because it has arms and is more comfortable than an armed dining chair, we tend to use "in."

    The above is just an attempt to give a rule of thumb, but in many cases there is no clear line between "in" and "on" in the context of chairs.
     

    naranjalima

    New Member
    spanish
    I think the difference is the degree to which we perceive that the chair envelops the person. With a simple, armless chair, we would usually say "on" because it is almost like sitting on a stool. With a stuffed armchair, we would say "in" because the person is sort of inside the confines of the chair. A rocking chair usually falls somewhere between these two types, but because it has arms and is more comfortable than an armed dining chair, we tend to use "in."

    The above is just an attempt to give a rule of thumb, but in many cases there is no clear line between "in" and "on" in the context of chairs.

    Good Explanation!!! Thanks a lot!!!
     

    MathCoach

    New Member
    English
    For me, if we are talking about an object ("please put the books on the chair"), I use "on."
    However, for people, I believe if it's a chair, I say "in" ("please sit in your chair). That is even for the armless chairs we use in the classroom (where we say that alot!)
    But of any other thing I might use for sitting, like a stool or couch, I use "on" (There's a stool you can sit on, or on the sofa if you like.") Beanbag chairs also take "in" for me.

    So now I'm thinking of a list:
    • on a rock
    • on a bench
    • on a tree stump
    • in a swing
    • in a chair
    • on a sofa/couch
    • on a stool
    • on an otoman
    • in a beanbag chair
    • in a highchair
    • on the edge of a cliff
    • on a cloud
    • on the floor/ground/grass
    • in your seat
    • in a recliner
    • on the desk (if you are sitting on the edge, other wise "at the desk")
    • on the fence (like around a corral)
    • on a log/tree trunk
    • in a tree
    • on a branch
    • on a crate
    • on the stairs
    • on the doorstep
    • on a committee
    • in a saddle
    • on a bicycle
    • on a horse
    • on my mother's lap
    • on the stoop
    • on the staircase
    • on the porch
    • in a church pew
    • on the toilet
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Google hit counts are often misleading, but "sitting on a chair" gets 13.7 million hits, while "sitting in a chair" gets 16.3 million, so it seems clear that both are commonly used.

    Strangely, when a command is given, I don't think we ever say "on": Go sit in your chair. However, in a declarative sentence the other preposition sounds perfectly natural.

    English prepositions can be illogical, or at least inconsistent, and this is surely a case of that.
     

    Sendro Páez

    Senior Member
    Spanish - España
    There should be a way on the forums to make threads like this stand out. It's both practical and profound... and thorough —hats off to the new fellow, MathCoach! Many thanks.
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    But isn't there a grammar book where we could find which preposition is grammatically correct?
    In this case it isn't really a question of grammar, as both prepositions are grammatically correct. It's just a matter of which one sounds more natural to us natives, and that is something that cannot be explained with a simple rule. Even we natives probably won't agree in every situation about whether to say "sitting in" or "sitting on."
     

    naranjalima

    New Member
    spanish
    In this case it isn't really a question of grammar, as both prepositions are grammatically correct. It's just a matter of which one sounds more natural to us natives, and that is something that cannot be explained with a simple rule. Even we natives probably won't agree in every situation about whether to say "sitting in" or "sitting on."

    Ah! both of them are considered grammatically correct you say. Then that's all I needed to know. Just use whichever you like the most.

    Thanks a lot!
     

    MathCoach

    New Member
    English
    Prepositions are the worst part of a new language for me. While there is some one-to-one correspondence when translating, it eventually boils down to just having to remember many of them and attach them in your mind. And yes, native English speakers have trouble and lots and lots of disagreement. Yes, that list is just the way I hear those. It isn't like there is a national body somewhere that makes decisions about the English language.
     

    naranjalima

    New Member
    spanish
    Prepositions are the worst part of a new language for me. While there is some one-to-one correspondence when translating, it eventually boils down to just having to remember many of them and attach them in your mind. And yes, native English speakers have trouble and lots and lots of disagreement. Yes, that list is just the way I hear those. It isn't like there is a national body somewhere that makes decisions about the English language.


    Thank you! I asked because I thought that there was something equivalent to the RAE in Spanish language, where we can search for the answer whenever we have got a doubt.
     
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