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Subject: Prepositions preceding modes of transportation
Question: I'm sure this is a useless question, but it has been bothering me since it occurred to me. Why is it we travel ''on'' a bus, ''on'' a train, ''on'' a boat, ''on'' a plane, but ''in'' a car? As we also travel ''in'' cabs and police cruisers, it begs to reason that it has less to do with ownership of the vehicle and more to do with the size of the vehicle. Nevertheless, the original models for automobiles weren't enclosed, to it seems likely that the usage would have favored ''on,'' since the riders were not ''in'' anything. The best reason I can think of is that the usage transferred from the horse-drawn carriage, which some of us still ride ''in'' today, but that only cycles the question further back. Bearing in mind that the modes of transportation at that point would have been the boat, the carriage, forms of animal (primarily horse), and later on the train, it makes sense to be ''on'' a boat and ''on'' a horse, but ''in'' a carriage. But why ''on'' a train? This, however, pushes the question forward yet again -- why, then, do we not ride ''in'' a plane or ''in'' a bus?
Reply: There is an element of the physicality in preposition choice (precluding riding in a horse, for example). But much of the choice is idiomatic -- it just IS the preposition to use. There are also choices. In English we do travel on a bus, in a bus and by bus; on a train, in a train and by train; on a boat, in a boat and by boat. (But, unless we are on a roof rack, we do NOT travel on a car.) So it's not hard and fast. This makes it all the harder for learners. We might normally travel in a canoe, but there also sit ON kayaks.... Anthea
Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
Date: 20-Feb-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Prepositions preceding modes of transportation    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (18-Feb-2013)
  2. Re: Prepositions preceding modes of transportation    Norvin Richards     (19-Feb-2013)
  3. Re: Prepositions preceding modes of transportation    Herbert Frederic Stahlke     (18-Feb-2013)
  4. Re: Prepositions preceding modes of transportation    John M. Lawler     (18-Feb-2013)

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